Short takes on Indiefest '11 - Page 4

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


Superstonic Sound: The Rebel Dread (Raphael Erichsen, U.K., 2010) "Everything I am came out of music," says Don Letts — the second-generation Jamaican British DJ, director, and entrepreneur credited with turning punks on to reggae in the late 1970s — in this documentary about his life and work. Much like his contemporary, the late Malcolm McLaren, Letts was a cultural cross-pollinator, working in different mediums while encouraging subcultures to feedback into and off of each other to create something explosive and new. While this serviceable doc lets Letts himself retrace ground that's been extensively covered elsewhere (it's worth noting, though, that nearly all the archival footage used was shot by Letts himself), the scenes with his formerly estranged son, who's also a DJ, are tender and unexpected. Feb. 12, 7 p.m.; Feb. 16, 9:15 p.m. (Matt Sussman)

Transformation: The Life and Legacy of Werner Erhard (Robyn Symon, U.S., 2010) The last thank you in the end credits of this documentary, in bold, is for Werner Erhard. The exiled former est leader and "personal growth" preacher or pioneer should thank director Robyn Symon — I think? – for Transformation, since it's a 77-minute advertisement for him. Certainly, Erhard is a potentially rich choice in terms of subject matter, but very early on, it's clear that Symon is out to paint a romantic, positive portrait: testimonials on his behalf are coupled with a low-volume acoustic guitar musical backdrop, and Erhard is even interviewed on the beach. Every once in a while an offhand moment — such as a brief mention of Scientology figurehead L. Ron Hubbard's predatory view of Erhard — disrupts the soothing flow and opens the possibility of a broader, critical look at the "personal growth" phenomenon. (For the most part, it's only been dramatized, usually through parody, in films such as 1999's Magnolia and 1995's Safe.) As a cultural and even historical figure, Erhard is worthy of an appraisal that's neither enraptured nor utterly damning. This isn't it. Thurs/3, 9:15 p.m.; Sat/5, 7 p.m.; Tues/8, 9:15 p.m. (Huston)

Worst in Show (Don Lewis, U.S., 2010) All films about animals in the competitive arena must acknowledge the fundamental truth that the animals themselves are nowhere near as entertaining as their owners. A dog just wants to play, eat, crap, sleep, and maybe have its belly rubbed. The dog's owner, on the other hand, wants other things — titles, media attention, perhaps an endorsement deal — because they have convinced themselves (as they must convince the judges, and to some degree, the public) that their dog does not just want to play, eat, crap, sleep, and maybe have its belly rubbed. No! Their dog is special. Doc Worst in Show understands this basic drama and finds plenty of eager players in the canine and bipedal contenders, both new and returning, at Petaluma's annual Ugliest Dog in the World Competition. Amid all the patchy fur, bad eyes, underbites, and malformed legs, it's the big hearts and outsized egos that truly stand out in this portrait of pageant motherhood at its most extreme. Feb. 9, 9:15 p.m.; Feb. 13, 2:30 p.m. (Sussman)