Sundance may be the most powerful festival devoted to American independent films, but in recent years it's become a careerist's stepping-stone to Hollywood. Fortunately there are still insurgent showcases like the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival, which remains committed to exhibiting unknown and unheralded artists.
With its traveling "Spotlight Series," the LA festival turns up here with a screening of Kevin Fitzgerald's impressive hour-long hip-hop documentary, Freestyle, which won the best sound track award at the March event. Exploring the streets and underground clubs of Brooklyn, San Francisco, New York's Lower East Side, and LA's South Central, Fitzgerald traces the cultural, political, and musical lineage of hip-hop, noting such stylistic precedents as black Baptist preachers, scat singers, and Muhammad Ali. The title refers to the form's particular brand of storytelling, defined by one of its subjects as "a spontaneous expression of self," by another as the intertwining of language and image "without a net, a single thought or expression that you rhyme off."
Fitzgerald, a Los Angeles-based DJ and music-video director, assembles a colorful cast of underground performers, wordsmiths, DJs, and MCs, including Global Phlowtations, Medusa, Pharoahe Monch, the Last Poets, Mos Def, and Supernatural. Freestyle screens at 10 PM this Monday at Mad Bar, 1640 N. Damen. On the same program is the winner of the festival's best short prize, Jason Reitman's In God We Trust, about a man who's killed by a truck and gets one last chance to escape damnation. A postscreening party includes a performance by DJ Mars. Tickets are $8. Call 773-227-2277. --Patrick Z. McGavin