Paranoid Park
Paranoid Park (2007)
Directed by Gus Van Sant
Screenplay by Gus Van Sant
Based on a novel by Blake Nelson

French:85 min / English:90 min

Gabe Nevins plays a teenage skateboarder, Alex, in Portland, Oregon. One day he visits a skate park, goes freight hopping with an acquaintance he meets there, and stumbles into committing the accidental murder of the security guard who chases them after them. He does nothing about reporting it. He throws his skateboard away in the river as he crosses a bridge. The police recover the skateboard, link it to the death of the guard, and target skaters at the local high school.
This film is like a highly polished gem. Even the roughness of some scenes -- the movie is shot in super 8 and 35mm -- only enhances its luster.
It was chosen Number ONE by the French film review Les Cahiers du cinéma as one of the top ten pictures of 2007.

CJ7 (2007) (aka "Cheung Gong 7 hou")
Directed by Stephen Chow
Written by Stephen Chow and Chi Keung Fung

86 min

Actor-director-funnyman Stephen Chow ("Kung Fu Hustle") launches a droll comedy vehicle that hits broadly with "CJ7." Dicky, a poor Chinese boy (played by a girl, Xu Jiao) who goes to a private school, while his widowed father works as a coolie on high rise construction projects to support his son's tuition even though the two of the live in a partially-deconstructed hovel and the father has to find clothing for them at the local dump. What he finds there changes the two of their lives. It is an extraterrestrial robot toy dog that conveys magic powers. Just when the boy begins to rely on the toy, it dies. And then, the spaceship lands again, this time with countless more robot toy dogs coming to meet Dicky. Kitty Zhang plays Miss Yuen, a teacher at the elite school who befriends Dicky and tutors him. She eventually becomes the love interest for the father, who is played by Chow.

Palace with her fist--GIrls Rock
Girls Rock! (2007)
Arne Johnson and Shane King, Directors
90 min

Portland surfaces again as the locale for a Rock 'n' Roll Camp for Girls, aged eight to eighteen. The campers come from all over the country, and the major thing that they have in common besides liking rock 'n' roll is that they are all girls. Carrie Brownstein, of the ex-band Sleater-Kinney is one of the instructors. The girls have a week to select a band, an instrument they may have never played before, and write songs and rehearse. The culmination is a concert for over 700 people. Rather than to try to make a big idea documentary, the film focuses on four of the campers: Laura, a Korean-American death metalhead; Palace, a nerdy seven-year-old who writes wacky songs and screeches when she sings; Amelia, who is writing an experimental rock opera about her dog Pippi; and Misty, who has escaped from gangs, meth and living on the streets, and is finding herself with the bass guitar. The two male directors decided to make the movie after hearing Carrie Brownstein speak positively about the Camp. The film intelligently covers gender bias in rock music, and we see how relating to the issues that young women face in a group like this changes awareness and appreciation of the girls' strengths. There are several rock camps throught the world. For more info: visit the websites below.

The one in the movie--Portland Rock 'n' Roll Camp for Girls
Brooklyn: Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls
Murfreesboro, TN: Southern Girls Rock 'n' Roll Camp
Philadelphia: Girls Rock Philly
Girls Rock! Bay Area (CA)
Sweden: Popkollo

And a big thank you to SF indie FIlm Festival. --Carl Macki

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