Short takes on Indiefest '11 - Page 2

What to see at the always fiesty film fest? From est to the Ugliest Dog in the World, our writers screen a gaggle of independent offerings on a world of subjects


The Drummond Will (Alan Butterworth, U.K., 2010) For a quirky, fast-paced comedy, The Drummond Will has a high body count. It's a mystery in the vein of Edgar Wright's Hot Fuzz (2007), but it's a much more subtle enterprise overall. Straight-laced Marcus (Mark Oosterveen) and charming Danny (Phillip James) travel from the city to the country for their father's funeral. They soon learn that they stand to inherit his house, which — as it turns out — comes with a set of bizarre complications. Shot in black-and-white, The Drummond Will transitions seamlessly from fish-out-of-water comedy to bloody whodunit. As the deaths escalate, so do the laughs. Because, yes, sometimes it's funny when people keep dying. I don't know why the English seem to have a particular talent for gallows humor — the aforementioned Hot Fuzz, 2008's In Bruges, the original Death at a Funeral (2007) — but let's be glad they do. And here's hoping first-time director Alan Butterworth (who co-wrote the film with Sam Forster) has more farce up his sleeve. Fri/4, 7 p.m.; Sun/6, 2:30 p.m. (Louis Peitzman)

Food Stamped (Shira Potash and Yoav Potash, U.S., 2010) Indeed, this is a doc by and about a Berkeley couple who temporarily set aside their Whole Foods-y ways and take the "food stamp challenge," spending no more than $50 on a week's worth of groceries (roughly $1 per meal, they figure). And they're gonna eat only healthy meals, dammit, if they have to dumpster-dive to do it. But Food Stamped is, thankfully, not a self-righteous yuppie safari into po' town — the Potashs' experiment provides the framework for an investigation into ways diets could be improved among lower-income families, including visits to farmers' markets and a farm in Maryland where food is grown for an entire school system. At a slim 60 minutes, Food Stamped is the ideal length to make its point succinctly, without getting preachy — though (and the filmmakers acknowledge this) their food-stamp project is merely a temporary stunt designed to open the eyes of those who've never actually needed food stamps to survive. These IndieFest screenings are copresented by the San Francisco Food Bank, which will be accepting donations on-site. Feb. 13, 4:45 p.m.; Feb. 15, 7 p.m. (Cheryl Eddy)

Free Radicals (Pip Chodorov, France, 2010) There's a paradox at the core of Pip Chodorov's feature, in that it employs perhaps the most commonplace and programmatic form of contemporary commercial moviemaking — documentary — to explore perhaps the most unique and expressive manifestation of film: experimental cinema. Free Radicals takes its title from a film by Len Lye, and one of the best aspects of Chodorov's approach is that it doesn't mercilessly chop up avant-garde works in the service of generic contemporary montage. He's willing to show a work such as Lye's film in its entirety, without intrusive voice-over. Chodorov is the son of filmmaker Stephan Chodorov, and his familiar and familial "home movie" approach to presentation is both an asset and a liability. It's helpful in terms of firsthand and sometimes casual access to his subjects — he largely draws from and focuses on a formidable, if orthodox male, canon: Stan Brakhage, Robert Breer, Peter Kubelka. But it also opens the door for a folksy first-person approach to narration that can err on the side of too-cute. It's subtitle — A History of Experimental Cinema — to the contrary, Free Radicals functions best as a celebration or appreciation of some notable and vanguard filmmakers and their efforts, rather than as an overview of experimental film. Feb. 13, 8:30 p.m.; Feb. 17, 7 p.m. (Johnny Ray Huston)