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Independent-minded cinema

by David Lamble

"Ruminations" is a documentary profile of Cockettes co-founder Rumi Missabu. Photo: Courtesy SF IndieFest
"Ruminations" is a documentary profile of Cockettes co-founder Rumi Missabu. Photo: Courtesy SF IndieFest  

The 20th San Francisco Independent Film Festival returns at precisely the moment when you're feeling a little exhausted from pre-Oscar buzz. This edition unspools 33 features and 51 shorts, from Feb. 1-15 at the Roxie (3117 16th St.), the Victoria (2961 16th St.) and 518 Val Pop-Up (518 Valencia). While the Sundance Film Festival promises a lineup of new films likely to be at the top of the indie food chain, SF IndieFest founder Jeff Ross and his programmers offer no assurances. IndieFest is a wild movie ride, with no seat belts or dashboard padding.

Ruminations Bio-doc profile of Rumi Missabu, a co-founder of San Francisco's early queer performance-art troop The Cockettes. Told through archival film clips, animation and new conversations with stars from SF's LGBTQ art history. (World premiere. Roxie, 2/4, 7)

Rukus Documentary/fiction hybrid is set in the Orlando, Fla. gay community, where teenage filmmaker Brett Hanover provides a unique coming-of-age story between artist Rukus, 20, and his lover Sable. (Roxie, 2/2, 5)

Ginger Nation With topics ranging from masturbation to sperm donations, flamboyant queer entertainer Shawn Hitchins (with co-director Jonathan Soja) will remind some of the glory days of 80s monologue artist Spalding Gray. (Roxie, 2/4, 8)

Viva (2007) Anna Biller presents the unlikely tale of a bored housewife who gets dragged into the early-70s sexual revolution. Abandoned by her spouse, Barbi is led into trouble by a girlfriend who preaches women's lib and gets Barbi to toss her bra and take on sexual freedom. Nudist camps, hippies, orgies, bisexuality, sadism, drugs, bohemia. Filmed in vibrant color with authentic period detail, a salute to old-fashioned exploitation films. (518 Val, 2/3)

Kaboom (2011) This Gregg Araki joint is an absurd blend of sex and mayhem.

Stella: "You meet some guy on a nude beach, and five minutes later you're downloading his hard drive in the back of a van? You're a slut. Next to putting a dick in your mouth with Lady Gaga playing in the background, that's about as gay as it gets."

London: "Straight guys are gayer than gay guys. The fact they're in love and can't suck each other's dicks makes them act queerer than Clay Aiken."

Smith: "So, are you worried?"

Stella: "Does Mel Gibson hate Jews?" (518 Val, 2/3)

Holden On After succumbing to a secret battle with mental illness, Holden Layfield evolves from beloved, small-town Georgia football player to a lost, self-medicating prophet. (Bay Area premiere, Roxie, 2/4, 6)

The S Word For centuries, religious groups have considered suicide a mortal sin, and denied offenders burial in consecrated ground. Filmmaker Lino J. Klein offers stories from suicide survivors. (Roxie, 2/3, 8)

Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation (1982-88) Eric Zalo showcases the efforts of three boys on the cusp of adolescence to create their own home version of this timeless Hollywood classic. It's the story of the six years it took to create this one-of-a-kind home movie. (518 Val, 2/4)

Black Cat Peter Pardini offers what he considers a satire of the prolific genre of true-crime documentaries.

Far Western James D. Payne explores the musical genre of Japanese kids hooked on American country music, a taste fostered by American Armed Forces Radio. Some of these kids grow up to write and sing their own uniquely Japanese versions of the category. I guess you are free to sing along. (California premiere with filmmaker, Roxie, 2/3, 8)

The Icarus Line Must Die Michael Grodnet presents a "No Wave-style film noir" about an aging LA underground pop star. As the story opens, frontman Joe Cardamone is down on his luck, unable to secure a record contract, and getting text-messaged death threats. (Bay Area premiere, Roxie, 2/4, 6)

Shut Yer Dirty Little Mouth (2002) Robert Taischer directed this weird film record of vodka-fueled harangues between two Mission District residents, Peter and Ray. (518 Val, 2/4)

Stuck Michael Berry's innovative musical kicks off with a carload of strangers trapped together on a stalled NYC subway train. Total strangers acknowledge their fellow strap-hangers and sing out their deepest secrets. (Victoria Theater, 2/1 opening night, includes invitation to a second film, "Girl Walk/All Day")

(Continues next week, info:

"Ruminations" is a documentary profile of Cockettes co-founder Rumi Missabu. Photo: Courtesy SF IndieFest

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