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Gen Art Film Festival a toasty alternative to the lingering winter chill

The torrential downpour had not yet quite started on the Festival opening night on Wednesday, with the New York premiere of CRASHING, a literature-meets-pornography tale of a grizzled novelist (played to fare-thee-well perfection by New York's own Campbell Scott) who flirts with sex and artistic inspiration (not necessarily in that order) as he crashes on the coach of two female students who are themselves aspiring novelists. The film drew a strong response from the capacity crowd (so large that the flm needed to be shown nearly simulataneously in two adjoining cinemas). For the Question and Answer, Campbell Scott, director Gary Walkow and the precocious pair (Izabella Mikow and Lizzy Caplan) did a fine verbal volleyball with members of the audience, most of whom were impressed with the film's provocative sexiness and verbal gymnastics (this journalist, included). The banter continued late into the evening with the after-party at The Garden. By then, the rains really came and continued unabated into the next evening.

Michael Biehn, currently on screens in the Rodriguez/Tarantino gore-fest GRIND, is one of the interlacing characters in Thursday night's sold out screening of YOU ARE HERE, directed by Henry Pincus. This sexy romp featuring a bevvy of beautiful young things (of both sexes) who let their hair down doing the nighly ritual of a club crawl. The audience of beautiful young things (of both sexes) obviously resonated to the film, many recounting their own alcohol and drug-fueled adventures in Manhattan's legendary nightlife. Dissecting the nature of partying while attending a party is what makes Gen Art such a singular event, and the after-party at Tenjune was exactly the kind that the characters in the evening's film would have visited in their search for physical, mental and sexual stimulation.
This weekend, Gen Art presents an intriguing mix of indie films covering several genres. Tonight, sci-fi meets zombies meets ecological disaster in the provocative THE SIGNAL, directed by Paul Hough. Told from the perspective of three visionary directors, the film is chock full of requisite gore, with enough tongue-in-cheek laughs to make the motley medicine go down. The film is being released by Magnolia Pictures later this year, and is sure to be an instant cult classic.

Don't confuse Saturday night's feature presentation SHARKWATER with the standard National Geographic special on the watery predators. Filmmaker and acclaimed underwater photographer Rob Stewart has fashioned an eco-thriller about his own adventures in stopping the wholesale massacre of sharks for their fins (a culinary delicacy and legendary aphrodisiac in Asia). The film, which features incredible you-are-there underwater photography, is a call-to-arms to save the endangered shark populations of the world and to rethink the false reputation that these beautiful mammals are literally out for human blood....or what the filmmakers refer to as the JAWS-effect. The film is a fitting choice for this year's Gen Art theme of eco-activism.

Mammals on land can be equally endangered, as the mockumentary CHALK makes abundantly clear. In the comedic style of Christopher Guest, the film is a spirited portrait of life in the trenches of that most horrible and frustrating of professions....teaching. Directed by Mike Akel, who drew from his own experiences as a neophyte public school teacher, the film peaks in on the overcrowded classrooms of a mix of teachers....the hip teacher who tries to relate to his student charges as a peer; the tough-ass gym teacher looking for love; the liberal school administrator whose ideas are upended by the cynicism of the system. The film is both hilarious and bracing, recognizing school for the battlefield that it often is.

The Gen Art Film Festival continues through next Tuesday. For more information on the Festival, screening schedule and future events, visit the website: www.genart.org.

Sandy Mandelberger

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