The Center for Contemporary Arts Cinematheque’s successful annual African Effect film festival starts again this Thursday, May 15, and runs through Sunday, May 18. This sixth annual outing features films, discussions and presentations about African culture and Africa in diaspora. Samba Gadjigo, one of the world’s foremost scholars of African cinema, returns as co-curator. Among the 2008 programming will be a focus on African-American comedy and a tribute to Ousemane Sembene, the father of African cinema. For a complete list of films and events, log on to www.ccasantafe.org. The CCA is located at 1050 Old Pecos Trail in Santa Fe.
In the world of documentary filmmaking, it’s rare to come across a story containing more than mere topical analysis tinged with one or more of the following: hip music, activism, wacky narratives, gratuitously artistic shots, dry humor and cool graphics (like star wipes). Absorbing human drama tends to be more elusive and reserved for works of fiction, while the reality captured within the nonfiction genre’s actuality, continuity and imagery is often void of grand emotions. Stephen Walker, director of Young@Heart, is either very talented or very lucky. His film manages to cross a threshold, capturing to the fullest potential a tragicomic slice-of-life story about usual people doing unusual things.
In their first writing/directing effort since the conclusion of the epic Matrix trilogy, the Wachowski brothers grab the steering wheel of Speed Racer, a live-action adaptation of the classic Japanese cartoon from the ’60s. Given the groundbreaking, if audience-splitting work the Wachowskis did on the techno-mythical Matrix films, Speed Racer seems like a somewhat junior-grade assignment. Despite the subdued expectations, this kiddie flick freak-out looks like it was shot not with a camera lens, but with a kaleidoscope. Watching it is roughly akin to taking LSD at Disneyland. (My God, the colors!) The result is a 10,000 RPM action movie that is somehow more cartoony than an actual cartoon.
Spike TV’s new two-part micro-series event “1000 Ways to Die” bills itself as a documentary that “combines the science of living and the randomness of death with a dash of Darwinism.” What the show really does, however, is combine the notorious (and mostly fake) snuff footage of Faces of Death with the “at least it wasn’t me” snarkiness of the Darwin Awards, and paints the whole shebang with a thin veneer of “CSI”-style forensic info.