Women in the Director's Chair International Film & Video Festival | Festival | Chicago Reader

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Women in the Director's Chair International Film & Video Festival

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The final three days of this festival, at the Chicago Cultural Center, Claudia Cassidy Theater, 78 E. Washington, include 16 film and video programs plus a few other events; all screenings are free. More information and a full festival schedule are available online at www.widc.org.

Of the programs I previewed, the strongest is Miranda July's feature Me and You and Everyone We Know, an award winner at this year's Sundance Film Festival. July skillfully interweaves multiple characters: a young woman (played by the director) pursues a shoe salesman; a seven-year-old boy, one of the salesman's sons, engages in kinky online chats with a mysterious stranger; a museum curator spouts trendy art terms. July says her video was "inspired by the longing I carried around as a child," and her stories of loneliness are told in images that isolate characters in space. But this video is also a study of life in the postmodern era, in which each person's self-presentation becomes a carefully calculated performance. (Sat 3/19, 5 PM)

In Cynthia Madansky's short Devotion (2004), a tourist in Istanbul reflects on her obsession with her departed lover as she moves from hotel to hotel, a rootlessness suggesting longing. Ai Lene Chor's Mindy (2004) depicts a little girl who makes a friend at school, the loneliness of each conveyed through careful compositions. (Sun 3/20, 6 PM) Laura Parnes's Hollywood Inferno (Episode One) (2002) tries for innovative storytelling, using two screens to depict the enigmatic relationship between an aspiring actress and a screenwriter; the multiple views add nuance, but the story doesn't cohere. (Fri 3/18, 7 PM) Split screen is used more successfully to express entanglements in an extended family of oddballs in The Tower (2001), by Dutch filmmakers Quirine Racke and Helena Muskens. And Fiona McLaren's documentary Riding the Dark Horse (2004) presents relationship troubles from another angle: older women talk about their problems finding a lover in the face of our culture's myths about youth and fertility. (Sat 3/19, 9 PM)

Several more experimental pieces unsettle perception. In Wenhwa Ts'ao's excellent Disunion of the Union of Suffering (2004), medical drawings and models are intercut to clash with each other, yielding to lushly beautiful butterflies and flowers. Eileen McCormack tries for a frenetic stream-of-consciousness flow of images (complete with Joyce references) in her Carla Cope (2004), which depicts a young New Yorker's confusion when dating two guys. (Sun 3/20, 2 PM)

Strong documentaries include Jan Krawitz's Big Enough (2004), which melds footage of dwarfs as kids and adults: some wouldn't change a thing, but their health and social problems are daunting. The juxtaposition of one in a normal-size kitchen with another in a scaled-down model is vividly effective. (Fri 3/18, 6 PM) And Mary Patierno's Vieques: Worth Every Bit of Struggle (2004) shows the fight on the part of residents of this Puerto Rican island to evict the navy, which had been using it as a bombing target for decades. The lush, beautiful landscape contrasts disturbingly with the information that the place has been poisoned by cancer-causing heavy metals. (Sat 3/19, 6 PM)

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