Hi/Lo Film Festival
Thurs/14-Sun/17, Red Vic Movie House and Parkway Theater

BACK FOR ITS eighth year of presenting "high concept/low budget" cinema, the Hi/Lo Film Festival packs three shorts programs and two documentary features into four days of free-thinking creative combustion. With local comedy collective Killing My Lobster pulling the strings, Hi/Lo delivers plenty of laughs: "Secret Santa," about an insanely jealous husband who tracks down his wife's coworker after a scandalous exchange of candy-filled mugs and Christmas socks; "Tales of Mere Existence," a deadpan, animated take on day-to-day annoyances (including muscle-bound coworkers who hog all the cute-girl customers); the awesomely non sequitur "Spam-ku: I won a haiku contest about spam," which contains the immortal phrase "I wouldn't call myself a loser – I'm more of a nonwinner"; and the vaguely disconcerting "Broadcast 23," which puts a Planet of the Apes spin on Deliverance (by way of The Blair Witch Project). Even more unsettling is the short doc "Found Artists: Gary Crom," about a Florida man who uses animal parts (and his own hair and teeth) to create the kind of masterpieces that wouldn't be out of place on the Texas Chainsaw Massacre homestead. Hi/Lo's longer entries include Skateboarding Is Not ..., a doc by Utah filmmaker Drew Barlow, and the high point of the festival, University of San Francisco grad Nic Hill's five-years-in-the-making Piece by Piece: The History of San Francisco Graffiti. For connoisseurs, this fiercely authentic film offers a nostalgic look back (it covers 1983 to the present), as well as an appreciative study of recent artists who've put their work on display. For anyone who's dismissed this form of "creative destruction" as vandalism, Piece by Piece is both an educational experience, with opposing schools of style discussed by those who perfected them, and a thoughtful document of an ever evolving art form – "the only art form created by youth," according to one graffiti scholar interviewed here. For show times see Rep Clock or go to www.hilofilmfestival.com. (Cheryl Eddy)