'Undiscovered Gems'
April 1-15, Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center

THE BAY AREA may host the most annual film festivals of any city in the United States and cover virtually every niche one can think of, but let's face it: the abundance of regional cinematic carrion feasts still can't cover everything, and even the most diligent of local film lovers can't hit up all the off-the-continent movie buffets. Thus, inevitably, one reads about those true fest treasures that have slipped through the cracks, those life-changing works sans deals or release dates that nonetheless prompt ecstatic screams of praise, show up on the Village Voice best-of film poll, and then are never heard from again. Luckily, the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center feels our pain, which is why it has teamed up with the online journal indieWIRE to present a two-week program of favorites culled from the site's "Top 20 Undistributed Films of 2003." Some of these orphans have found parents since the list was published last December, but keeping market factors in consideration, who knows if and when we'll get another chance to see documentaries on two elderly activists (Sunset Story), hardcore Christian fanatics (Dog Days' Ulrich Seidl's stunning confessional Jesus, You Know), celebrity hemp activists named Harrelson (Ron Mann's Go Further), garage sales (G-Sale), or the would-be king of Long Island's demolition derby circuit (Speedo). The rest of the lineup mixes a few titles that may sound familiar – the Italian drama Good Morning, Night has garnered reams of critical kudos over the past 12 months, and the Palestinian docu-fiction joyride Ford Transit recently received a rave in these very pages – along with some hitherto unknown pleasures, but virtually every entry in the list shares the same trait: they deserve an audience willing to sample fare outside the cineplex norm. See Rep Clock for show times. (David Fear)

March 31, 2004