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Month
July
Year
1998
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Creative Commons (Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-alike)
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Agenda Publications
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Editor's note: The films reviewed in this month's column have all been produced by resident Ann Arbor filmmakers. These films are available for viewing at no charge with dentif ication at Liberty Street Video. Liberty Street Video's manager, Laura Abraham, says they will gladly add other locally produced films to their "Local Filmmakers" department. For more nformation, cali 663-3121. FROM ONE PRISON ... [1994. Directed by Carol Jacobsen. Carol Jacobsen Productions. 70 mins.] $E Disillusion brings resolve in Carol J acobsen ' s From One Prison ... For there's no place to run or hide in this nofrills documentary Q&A about four women incarcerated for murder in Michigan's Florence Crane Prison. Jacobsen holds her camera so f i rmly front and center during these women's interview that the sheer f orce of their stories, coupled with this straightforward set-up, graphically paints a picture of our society that has been brushed under the proverbial carpet. The women who make up the documentary - Violet Allen, Geraldean Gordon, Linda Hamilton, and Juanita Thomas - teil their tales with a devastating simplicity. In each case, the woman was physically and mentally abused by the deceased spouse and each woman was ultimately driven to violence to stop her misery. Michigan's pólice, criminal justice, and judicial systems broke down, leaving these women to their own devices. And to compound marters, the penal system threw the book at them for defending themselves. In the case of Allen, she killed her husband after he attacked her and their child in a night of rampage. Gordon was sentenced from 20 to 50 years for accidentally killing her husband after being denied pólice protection. Hamilton was convicted of both murder and conspiracy after her husband held her and their children hostage. And Thomas was convicted of murder when her trial judge disallowed repeated evidence of spousal abuse. Through the elementary use of words, Jacobsen profiles four examples of justice not only miscarrying, but being blatantly sexist and racist. The women recount their lack of hospitalizaron; sexual harassment by guards; and overcrowded living conditions with a finality that is ultimately unnerving. Sponsored by the Washtenaw County American Civil Liberty Union; the Michigan Battered Women's Clemency Project; and the Paul Robeson Foundation for Independent Media, From One Prison ... is not a film to be taken lightly. Holding up these four women's lives in the clarity of light, Carol Jacobsen shows us that discrimination in justice can indeed happen here. It already has. I WAS A CARTOON STUNTMAN [1 997. Directed by Steve Elliott. Volees: Steve Elliott, Lauren Pillarelli, John Pasko. A Mind-Film Production. 18 mins.] If the name Delbert Birchfield doesn't quite ring a bell, it' s certainly not for lack of trying. Steve Elliott's sweet-natured Was a Cartoon Stuntman goes to the heart of this mystery with an unflagging enthusiasm that indicates we may not have heard the last of Delbert. For Delbert Birchfield is one of those nebbish cartoon characters who' s unceremoniously been tossed into animation's hazy otherworld. Indeed, so sad is the balding and overweight Delbert's fate, a late night gig on the Cartoon Network would be two steps up from his current woe. It takes all of multi-hyphenate Elliott's persuasivo powers (including a very amusing on-air interview) to get Delbert Birchfield's story on video tape. Being aguy who once rubbed celluloid with all the big wigs in the animation business, Delbert's had a bad run of it lately . Some part of his diff culty is due to some unfortunate career moves, but the largest part is his tragic luck in romance. Occupying the heart of this interview - in many ways - is Delbert's last squeeze, Nebuia Jones. Granted, Jones (Lauren Pillarelli) has seenbetterdays - and maybe even better nights - but it's clear Delbert's love 'em and leave 'em routine has gotten tohisex-... well, whatever she was. Who else would be sufficiently traumatized as to try to scratch out a Delbert tattoo on her arm with a ball point pen? Let's just say Nebuia got on the fast lane of animation without a clear road map. As this remarkable interview unfolds, it becomes clear how treacherous the entertainment industry can be. Or for that matter, how trying one's supporters can be. Delbert 's fan club is ramrodded by the fanatical John Smith (John Pasko) and just one cursory glance tells you he's a man unnaturally driven by a mission ... any mission. His current mission just happens to be Delbert. What's most amazing about Delbert Birchfield's celebrity is the passion he brings out in others. No price is too odd for his followers to pay. B ut such is also the cost of f ame. The story in Was a Cartoon Stuntman is a cautionary tale for anyone striving to make it big in the world of fractured flickers. You (he, she, or it) should watch this entertaining cartoon repeatedly. H.P. LOVECRAFT'S 'THE HOUND' [1997. Directed by Anthony Reed. Cast: Scott Hoye, Steve Toth. Panoptic Film Video. 22 mins.] Anthony Reed's fourth film effort is a major step forward in his development as an independent filmmaker. Wrestling with the often mindboggling issues that beset independent productions, Reed's solutions in H.P. Lovecraft's 'The Hound' are quite nearly ingenious. Adapting a short story is def in itely a step in the right direction in that the limited demands of the narrative means the production can concéntrate on more pressing matters. But in this instance, it's also a clever structural move because the nearpsychotic drive of H.P. Lovecraft's breathless narrative carnes the viewer along with the film's relentless plot. In this exceedingly simple story, the narrator tells a supernatu ral tale that boggles the imagination. He (Scott Hoye) and his associate, St. John (Steve Toth), have conspired to rob a grave of an ancient amulet. Their uncovering of this devilish charm leads to a chain of mysterious events that in turn leads to their murder and suicide. As the film ends, the omnipotent baying of this hellish invisible hound rings in the narrator's imagination as he dramatically cuts short his accursed life. A tidy story, bilt also very emotionally complicated. By keeping focused on this stripped down story-line - and, what is more important, filming in black and white - this supematural tale becomes more than merely a matter of the suspension of disbelief . For it's been said color photography reflects the world, but black and white photography reflects reality. This truism clearly reflects H. P. Lovecraft's 'The Hound.1 Likewise, using a voice-over narrative with a throbbing electronic musical soundtrack eliminates the need for wrestling with either ambient sound or other sorts of dubbing. Scott Hoye's eloquent and well-modulated frenzy increases the incipient feeling of paranoia. The majority of the credit for this superlative production goes to director and cinematographer, Anthony Reed. His shot composition - as well as the gracef ully fluid tracking of his camera - makes hisf lm a completety realized horrorshow. Using his photography with a chiaroscuro delicacy, Reed's camera aids in creating a world where nothing is totally what it seems. So if the credit for the story must go to Lovecraft's peculiar imagination, the kudos for this adaptation must go to his nervy acolyte. With H.P. Lovecraft's The Hound, 'Anthony Reed graduates to full-fledged filmmaker status. RATING KEY 1ÍV Acting 0 Cinematography Direction Ie Editing A Narrative Sound Special Effects When a symbo appears following a title, it implies (fiat the corresponding category s a strength of the movie.

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