November 15, 2004

NEWS: Youth take matters into their own hands (USA)


Youth take matters into their own hands

''How about we use a Bunsen burner, baby? Start this fire."

That, I'm afraid, counts as a slick come-on line from Max, a gawky teen with a crush on his science teacher in ''Chemistry: A Kvetching Film." In this short comedy by Cambridge's Julian Joslin, poor Max is a mini-Woody Allen, trudging lovelorn through the Harvard Square snow, sneaking peeks at Cosmo Girl! magazine, and moaning to the camera: ''Look at me. I'm a white Jewish prep with a sweating problem. I'm a Paul Simon stuck in a world of Tupac and Biggie, bling bling and ice."

The amusing ''Chemistry" is one of 13 shorts screening Saturday in the ninth annual ''Do It Your Damn Self!! National Youth Video and Film Festival," presented by Cambridge's Community Art Center. In these dramas, documentaries, music videos, and public service announcements, the technical quality may veer, like the films' origins, all over the map, but the ambition is clear. The festival was started by teenagers from Cambridge's Area 4 who wanted their voices heard; they've since been joined by a chorus of aspiring young filmmakers.

''It was a step not just for ourselves but for youth worldwide," says Saquora Lowe-McLaurin, 26, who helped found the festival in 1996 as a member of the CAC's award-winning Teen Media Program and returns this year for the first time as festival coordinator. ''We thought we were being inappropriately portrayed in the media. We wanted to show that we were inner-city youth doing something positive."

This year's shorts come from as near as Lynn and as far away as Espanola, N.M. Standouts include ''Stalker/Stalker," a turn-the-tables drama with a message from Durham, N.C., and ''Elements," a funny collage about romance from the Youth Sounds Factory in Oakland, Calif. (Best line: ''I love y'all like I love hot chips" -- a West Coast treat, maybe?)

Screenings are at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. at MIT's Bartos Theater, the Wiesner Building, 20 Ames St., Cambridge. A dessert reception with the young producers is at 9:15. For tickets, call 617-868-7100, ext. 15.

SLAVIC STORIES: The most famous Ukrainian film is Sergei Paradjanov's lyrical classic ''Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors" (1964) -- and if you've seen it, you were probably in a film class. But there's a lot more out there, and to prove it, the Institute of Contemporary Art is hosting a Ukrainian Film Festival Thursday through Nov. 21, accompanying the photography exhibit ''Boris Mikhailov: A Retrospective." ''Shadows" is here -- it still casts a long shadow, I guess -- along with Vyacheslav Krishtofovich's 1998 dark comedy ''A Friend of the Deceased," about a miserable translator who impulsively hires a hit man for himself and then has second thoughts, and Oles Sanin's lush folk tale ''Mamay," which receives its Boston premiere. For information, visit

SHORT TAKES: Boston College filmmaker John Michalczyk is known for serious documentaries on issues of social justice, and his latest work, ''Killing Silence: Taking on the Mafia in Sicily," is no exception. The film looks at the reaction of citizens of Palermo, Sicily, after the Mafia killings of two leading prosecutors. ''Killing Silence" screens Thursday and Dec. 4 at the Museum of Fine Arts, with the director present. For information, visit

Fans of the lovely Erika Marozsan evidently can't get enough of her -- not in the drama ''Gloomy Sunday," in which Marozsan plays a 1930s Budapest restaurant hostess whom multiple men long for, and not in 33 cinemas across the country, where Rolf Schubel's film has become a long-running sensation. Today, in fact, marks its one-year anniversary at the West Newton Cinema. (According to distributor Menemsha Films, the record there is 68 weeks, for ''Cinema Paradiso.") To keep the ''Gloomy" feelings going (and learn screening times), call 617-964-6060.

Rebecca Ostriker can be reached at 

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