6. STANDING BY YOURSELF ^ Josh Koury’s documentary follows two teenagers whose lives are in a downward spiral of narcotized self-abuse; one of the teens is the filmmaker’s younger brother, which creates additional ethical concerns. This shattering feature provided a rare glimpse into the harrowing underside of American youth culture and signals the arrival of a talented filmmaker of enormous risk-taking potential. ^ STATUS: Currently in limited festival programming following its May theatrical debut in New York.
7. HYSTERIA ^ Berkeley-based filmmaker Antero Alli achieved a personal best in this raucous and imaginative feature concerning a Croatian boxer whose religious mania drives him to physical and political extremes. Originally conceived in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the film offers a warning to anyone who misreads religious texts as a means to profaning the holiness of life. ^ STATUS: Currently in limited festival programming, with videos available for purchase from the filmmaker.
8. SOAP GIRL ^ Talented Korean-American filmmaker Young Man Kang fashioned this highly entertaining story of an unlikely sisterhood created by the employees of a Hollywood massage parlor. With a gorgeous ensemble cast playing the soapy story for all it is worth, the film is a wonderful low-cal/high-camp treat. ^ STATUS: Theatrical premiere in Los Angeles earlier in December, with additional play dates scheduled for 2003.
9. BYROMANIA ^ First-time filmmaker Jamil Said created this knockout short comedy about a deranged young man who goes to highly extreme lengths to obtain funding for his dream project: an amusement park celebrating serial killers. Rich with rude and unapologetically blasphemous humor, the film takes more risks and hits more bull’s eyes than any comedy out of Hollywood. ^ STATUS: Currently playing in festival programming.
10. THE ANGEL ^ Bogdan Darev adapted the classic Andersen fairy tale into a profound and beautiful short celebrating life and the promise of life beyond death. Rarely has a religious subject matter been presented on film with such taste, intelligence and maturity. ^ STATUS: Currently playing in festival programming.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: ^ MOVING, a laugh-out-loud hilarious comedy about two idiots searching for a stolen house; PROTEST! THE WEF IN NYC, Nathan Bramble’s documentary short on a less-than-successful public protest of an international economic gathering; SALTWATER COWBOYS, an intriguing documentary short on a unique volunteer firefighter battalion; FIRST MOVEMENT FORM, a wonderfully off-kilter short about an artistically-motivated stalker; SCREAMIN’ JAY HAWKINS: I PUT A SPELL ON ME, the rocking documentary on the celebrated music icon; DIAMONDS AND RUST, an excellent fly-on-the-wall documentary about the strained relations aboard a South African diamond trawler; ROOM TONE, Rachel Gordon’s wry comedy short about an extinguished relationship that survives attempts at resurrection; GHOST SWEEPER MIKAMI, a lively anime feature about a profit-oriented ghoul fighter; SNAPSHOT, Jeremiah Kipp’s engaging short about a romantic foursome; ZENITH, a moving documentary about a rural community’s attempt to stage a Passion Play; and GAZA STRIP, a sharp documentary on Palestinian life under Israeli occupation.
And special mention to SIDDHARTHA, Conrad Rooks’ long-unseen 1972 film version of the Herman Hesse novel which enjoyed a brief theatrical re-release and is currently available on home video and DVD.
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