Baltimore's MicroCineFest '97
by Patrick Smith
Have you ever attended an event in your hometown — maybe heard a band or
went to a street festival and looked around and asked yourself, “Hey, when
did my hometown get to be so cool?”
I asked that question recently in my hometown of Baltimore. The clincher
for Charm City was MicroCineFest ’97, a first-rate indie film festival held
in an old funeral home.
MCF ’97 was four days of some of the best independent films anywhere. Skizz
Cyzyk, the festival’s organizer, programmer and longtime resident of the
erstwhile funeral home he calls the Mansion Theater, said he handpicked
most of MCF 97’s films from the New York and Chicago underground film
festivals, as well as Rosebud, Slamdance and Slumdance.
The festival drew standing room only crowds Friday and Saturday — a few
viewers had to squeeze between the wall and an old casket in the corner of
the main screening room — and was attended by some of America’s top
The festival started off with Suki Hawley and Michael Galinsky’s “Half Cocked” which has gained a following at festivals and underground screening
venues all over the world. Next, Jacob Young’s amazing “Dancing Outlaw” and
the must-see-to-believe “Dancing Outlaw II: Jesco Goes To Hollywood“. Young
shot “D.O.” for West Virginia Public Television and creeped out audiences
all over the country with his documentary on Jesco White, West Virginia’s
last great mountain dancer. Bootlegs of Young’s honest documentary found
their way to many a VCR since its 1991 release and America begged to know
more about Jesco. Along comes the hard-to-find “D.O.II” and America can
rest again. The best part about the MCF ’97 screenings of the “D.O.” films
was that all proceeds went directly to Jesco himself to buy a new hot water
heater. No kidding.
Thursday featured a huge collection of mostly super 8 shorts made by
Baltimore filmmakers Cheryl Fair and Martha Colburn. Also, viewers saw a
retrospective of Cleveland’s Robert Banks, including “You Can’t Get A Piece Of Mind: The Ultimate Rocu-drama“. Also from Cleveland, Joe and Anthony
Russo’s “Pieces” was on Thursday’s bill.
MCF 97’s Friday lineup included John Michael McCarthy’s horror/punk
rock/juvenile delinquent “Sore Losers“, as well as short films by Bianca Bob
Miller and Ken Hegan. Mike White’s two “Fooling” movies, Rian Johnson’s “Evil Demon Golf Ball From Hell” and my all-time favorite “Heavy Metal Parking Lot“
as part of the films by Jeff Krulik and friends. Krulik & friends also
featured the film of pro wrestler Classy Freddy Blassey (King of Men) on a
tour of Krulik’s hometown of Washington, DC.
The last day of MCF ’97 saw three documentaries: “Rainbow Man/John 3:16“, Sam
Green’s film of the astonishing story of the guy who used to show up at
ballgames with the multi-colored wighat; “Take A Trip With Jeff“, Lance
Weiler’s 17-minute film about a Pennsylvania oddball named Jeffrey; and “Al Adamson: Drive In Monster“, Chad Sisneros’ documentary of the late
exploitation filmmaker, including the last interview before Adamson’s
murder. Friday also saw a series of shorts by San Francisco’s King of Super
8 Danny Plotnick, including some rarities and his epic “I’m Not Fascinating: The Movie“.
But the big draws for Friday were the L.A. punk rock manifesto “Angry Man” by
David Baer, Edwin Baker’s “The Confession“, Paul Burke’s “Repast” and Jason
Hernandez-Rosenblatt’s gross-out “Meat“.
Some festival in Florida was supposed to send “Killing Time“, Adam Davis and
Todd Phillips’ (“Hated: The GG Allin Story“) hilarious half-hour film about
boredom, but the film never made it. Davis and cinematographer Michael
Yetter did, and took in the MCF ’97 themselves.
For the MCF ’97 finale, Cyzyk screened Sarah Jacobson’s “I Was A Teenage Serial Killer” and Jon Moritsugu’s “Terminal USA“.
Cyzyk’s choice of films for MCF ’97 — not to mention his ability to land
the films themselves — was inspired. He had hundreds of people he didn’t
know over to his house to watch movies. And the whole thing came off as
being exactly the kind of thing that can only happen in Baltimore. Now I
remember why I live here.
[Patrick Smith is a Baltimore freelance writer.]