January 31, 2005

Media That Matters

The company I work for has a slogan: Media Where It Matters. When they say media they mean advertising, placed in stores to incite consumption right where people do their buying. This was at the front of my mind as I drove to the Potrero Wednesday night for the fourth annual Media That Matters Film Festival, hosted at the Bay Area Video Coalition. The contrast between the media screened at the festival and the spots I produce for work could not have been more pronounced. Here were 16 short films on topics ranging from HIV-infected children in Africa to childhood obesity, from racial profiling to homeless teens, from Iraq to culture jamming, each one more inspiring than the last. After the screening a representative from Books Not Bars, an Oakland organization that demands government prioritize education over incarceration for our country's youth, gave a quick talk on further ways to get involved in her group. As I walked out of BAVC my head was spinning with information and ideas. First up I think I have to buy the DVD and start passing it around my friend circle.

The next night I settled in at home and watched all four hours of Lawrence of Arabia on DVD. I'd only seen it once before, my sophomore year of high school when my history class was studying T.E. Lawrence's role in the Arabian revolt against the Turks. My tiny television did no justice whatsoever to the cinematography; some day I will have to make the effort to see it on the big screen. Peter O'Toole makes serviceable work of chewing the scenery as Lawrence, but it is Omar Sharif as Ali who really steals the show. Ultimately I prefer David Lean's more intimate and poignant Brief Encounter and Summertime or the expressionist camerawork in Oliver Twist, but if nothing else I love Lawrence for the camels.

Friday night after work I went over to A Clean Well-Lighted Place for Books to hear Douglas Coupland read from his new book Eleanor Rigby. He tossed out Little Debbie Snack Cakes to audience members who correctly answered Simpsons trivia and then read a passage and a half from Eleanor before abruptly announcing he was instead going to read from the manuscript for his Microserfs sequel jPod "because I feel like it." After he'd finished with that he took exactly five questions from worshipful twenty-somethings in the crowd and then announced he had something to do in the back before he started signing books with his lovely calligraphy pen. I was highly entertained by his stream-of-consciousness chatter and his interrupting himself to jump suddenly to a wholly unrelated topic during the course of the reading, but it did lead me to make certain assumptions about what he was really doing during his "time out."

Finally, Saturday evening Carol and I took BART into the Mission for a yummy dinner at Ti Couz and then walked over to the Make-Out Room for the Indie Mag All-Stars party, otherwise known as the closing drink-a-thon for the Independent Press Association convention. Writers from Bitch, Kitchen Sink, Watchword, LiP, Other, and Clamor took turns reading their work from the stage while half the audience listened attentively and the other half yelled their drink orders. Both fiction and non-fiction were represented, and my favorite piece was Lynn Rapoport's article about living in the Mission. She wrote about the impromptu street art you see every day, the immense diversity present in that small chunk of the city, the friends you run into on the sidewalk, and the sense of belonging that is hard to come by even after a decade of living in the same place. As someone who has never lived in the Mission but who spends a lot of time lurking there, it hit quite a few chords.


Media That Matters Film Festival
Lawrence of Arabia
A Clean Well-Lighted Place for Books
Douglas Coupland
Independent Press Association
Kitchen Sink

Posted by nightfall at January 31, 2005 09:50 PM