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OpenLens Festival features Harrington, shorts
by Molly Templeton
If filmmaker Beth Harrington’s choice of documentary subjects is any indication, she shoud be an interesting host for DIVA’s sixth OpenLens Festival — and probably a fascinating person to grab a beer with, too. Her work ranges from OPB pieces about little-known parts of Oregon history to an autobiographical documentary, The Blinking Madonna & Other Miracles. Earlier this month, DIVA showed her piece about Oregon beer culture, Beervana; this weekend, as part of the festival, her Grammy-nominated documentary Welcome to the Club: The Women of Rockabilly will screen (7 pm Friday, Jan. 29; $7). Women is instantly fascinating, though it stumbles at the start with a distracting reenactment sequence. It quickly recovers, diving into the careers of Janis Martin (dubbed the female Elvis), Wanda Jackson, Lorrie Collins and Brenda Lee, considering their pioneering stories in comparison with the fame of the men of the era — and looking quite clearly at the way the record labels’ growing marketing machines required these young women to fit a certain mold and live a certain life. While she could have stayed in the ’50s, giving more detail about these women’s careers at their peak, rather than skipping forward to the rockabilly revival, Harrington’s sharp observations about gender (and race) within the music industry (something she, as a former member of Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers, surely knows about firsthand) make for a smart film that only begins to tell a greater story.
During the festival, Harrington will show clips from her current project, The Winding Stream: The Carters, the Cashes and the Course of Country Music, described as a “music history and performance film.” She’ll also give two seminars and serve as the host for the festival’s two competitions, the OpenLens Short Film Competition and the Youth Visions Teen Video Challenge.
The short films in both these competitions range from horror to music video, documentary to drama and animation to a collection of stunt work. The Youth Visions selections, created by teens from throughout Lane County, are a sometimes goofy bunch — in a pair of shorts, a boy falls in love with a mop and a broom that are credited as being played by Jessica Alba and Angelina Jolie — but they hit more serious notes as well. The clear highlight of the teen videos is “Tomato Soup,” a clever animated piece made by two students from Crow High School, John Sevey and Zoe Livelybrooks. In creepy, jerky stop-animation, a lunch lady uses highly unorthodox methods to make the day’s soup (without spoiling the fun, one suggestion: watch for the cows). An unscheduled visit from a health inspector, unsurprisingly, doesn’t go so well.
The longer OpenLens Short Film program is all over the place in terms of the film’s subjects and levels of success. Jason Miles Miller’s “Elegy: A Kevin Adams Mystery” has a certain procedural appeal that’s largely due to the comfortable presence of its lead actor, J. Michael Salas. If you’ve seen any of Henry Weintraub’s horror films, you probably know what to expect from his entertainingly gory music video for Monday With a Bullet’s “Scent of Your Blood.”
One of the stronger documentary pieces is Christopher Nguyen’s “Blizzcon: An Event for Fans,” which takes a brief look at the event celebrating games made by Blizzard. It’s a fun peek, but Nguyen’s choice to mostly speak to men and highlight women only when they’re dressed up for the costume contest sticks too closely to tired stereotypes about gamers and gender. Ray Robison’s “Model Rules” is a nice balance to this: In Robison’s sweet drama, written by its star, Marilyn Mason (pictured), a woman who models for art students fantasizes about one of the men in the class. She’s naked, but he — with his leather loafers and sturdy build — is the object of her gaze.
The OpenLens Festival runs Jan. 29-31 at DIVA. The OpenLens Short Film and Video Competition pieces screen at 7 pm Saturday, Jan. 30, and 3 pm Sunday, Jan. 31; the Youth Visions Teen Video Challenge shorts show at 2 pm Saturday, Jan. 30, and 1 pm Sunday, Jan. 31. For full schedule, see www.divacenter.net