The Other Venice Film Festival


REVIEW by Willard Manus

VENICE, CA -- It may be the "other" Venice film festival, a no-budget, underground, largely-volunteer shindig held over a weekend, but that doesn't mean that the work on display wasn't as provocative and challenging as anything seen on the other side of the pond.

THE OTHER VENICE FILM FESTIVAL 2005 not only featured approximately two dozen full-length, short and experimental films, but panel discussions, interviews, workshops, tributes and parties galore. Topped by a personal appearance from Werner Herzog (Incident at Loch Ness), the fest's bill of fare was a rich and varied one which attracted full houses. The largely youthful audience that packed Switch Studios and the Electric Lodge, Venice's performing arts center, greeted just about every work with warmth and appreciation, sending out the kind of good vibes which are rarely found at the larger, hyper-competitive festivals.

Herzog's film, a tongue-in-cheek mockumentary on the hunt for the Loch Ness monster, was written and directed by Zak Penn, with Herzog playing himself. It kicked off the festival and was followed by another satire, Icetown and M-Boys by Patrick Masson, which poked fun at Stacy Peralta's hugely successful Dogtown & Z-Boys. Masson focused on the Monty Pythonlike antics of a bunch of skateboarders doing tricks on a hillside covered with ice plants. Peralta was a participant in the festival, screening his big wave surf documentary Riding Giants and later taking part in a panel discussion. He was presented with a Local Maverick Spotlight Abbott Award named after Venice's founding father, Abbott Kinney.

On the serious side were such films as Road Kings, directed by Detlich McClure, and Robert Bailey's LAST CALL, a half-hour, two-character drama set in a Queens bar-room and dealing with a noirish, bittersweet love story. This was followed by a slew of personal films, some irreverent and funny, such as Natasha Maidoff's The Orange Orange, others somber and reflective, including Tao Ruspoli's study of his drug-addicted mother, father and younger brother, Just Say Know. On the more daring, ground-breaking side were experimental shorts by Ahab (Oedipus Nextel) and Steven Rose Souvenir.

The Venice fest also screened a late-night video competition which featured 15 music videos, including the world premieres of Revolution by popular local band Sugarbitch and Fluid Dreams from Thievery Corporation. The Audience Choice award went to The Increasing Deficit, directed by William Jones.

The winner in the feature film category was Naked Brown Men, directed and starring the Basco brothers (Dante, Darion, Derek and Adam G). The Bascos played Filipino-American actor/brothers sharing a house while pursuing their careers, women and good times.

Just Say Know won the Most Excellent Short Award.

For more information on The Other Venice Film Festival and its co-founders Ruby De La Casas, Gary Ellenberg and A.J. Peralta, go to