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After eight ramshackle but reliably exciting years, the Hi Mom! Film Festival will come roaring back to life this weekend.

International shorts conspiracy 

As Hi Mom! shows once again, it takes a globe to make a village film festival

click to enlarge Kuboa
  • Kuboa

After eight ramshackle but reliably exciting years, the Hi Mom! Film Festival will come roaring back to life this weekend. There are still no major sponsors, no incorporation into a nonprofit, and no executive director. It's just three guys who love experimental shorts. Once again, co-conspirators Matt Hedt, Ian Krabacher and Tom Laney have pulled together several dozen films from around the world for a three-day festival, and all without panel discussions about the state of indie filmmaking or a deal with iPod.

As evidenced by the high number of repeat filmmakers, it's becoming clear that Hi Mom! is an international conspiracy of artists who make idiosyncratic shorts. From points as relatively near as Carrboro and as far as Israel, filmmakers have cultivated a direct relationship with the curators of the Hi Mom! fest. As always, the festival's program notes feature extensive--and ever more familiar-feeling--interviews with the artists. These interviews are essential reading, especially in the case of a couple of the more mysterious offerings.

Much of this year's festival will transpire in the ArtsCenter in Carrboro, but Thursday night's opening will be at Reservoir on Brewer Lane (the site of the old Go! Studios). After that night's film program, which begins at 9 p.m., veteran noise combo Milemarker will headline a stage show that begins with a set by local outfit Kerbloki.

click to enlarge Don't Make Yourself Worried
  • Don't Make Yourself Worried
The festival never burdens itself with a theme, but a viewing of a number of the films reveals a couple of pertinent trends. One is that the best work is coming from overseas and from stateside art schools. Another is that, if anything, the festival's always tangible fissure between high cinematic art and cinematic hi-jinks is becoming more apparent. This is a festival that contains a title like the bawdy Fuck Pillows, a lo-fi film that hits its very low target and, on the other end of the seriousness scale, Even if she had been a criminal, a disturbing film from French artist Jean-Gabriel Periot. And, for the first time, the emerging cinematic powerhouse of Iran is represented in Hi Mom!, with Don't Make Yourself Worried, an earnest portrait of a marriage in crisis that's executed in the spare style typical of that country's cinema.

Periot, who lives and works in Tours, France, specializes in archival excavations of European history. In last year's Hi Mom! fest, his Dies Irae won second prize. It was a singularly haunting excursion down the highways of the world, composed of split-second images culled from the Internet, and it ended up in something like a death camp. Even if she had been a criminal is a less subtle effort, but it's more powerful for it. After a marvelously ironic précis of the Second World War--told in a matter of minutes with archival clips of important leaders, airplanes flying, boats sailing, troops marching--Periot settles on the film's true subject: the bloodletting that took place in towns large and small after the occupation. The faces that had seemed jubilant at the prospect of liberation are shown again in their original contexts: jeering cruelly over the chastisement of women who supposedly had slept with German soldiers.

Periot is a young artist whose work has been all over the world, and he's unfashionably preoccupied with the unresolved historical and ethical ugliness of the last century. In the program notes, he tells a Hi Mom! interviewer that many contemporary viewers of Even if she had been a criminal are unaware of the practice of chastisement, or publicly shaving the heads of women deemed faithless. Criminal will be shown in the Saturday afternoon block of films, beginning at
4 p.m. at the ArtsCenter.

click to enlarge The Fish Head Fuge and Other Tales for Twilight
  • The Fish Head Fuge and Other Tales for Twilight

As usual, Hi Mom! will showcase topnotch--and unclassifiable--animated work. In fact, two films in particular lead one to wonder if women animation artists are all reading Douglas Hofstadter's Gödel, Escher, Bach this season. Light Stains, from California artist Sandra Cheng, is a two and a half minute 3-D animated film told from the point of view of a 19th-century woman who began her astronomy career as a cleaning lady and graduated to divining the history of the universe from photographs. An even more complex animation comes from the duo of Lauren Indovina and Lindsey Mayes-Beug. Called The Fish Head Fugue and Other Tales for Twilight, it's a densely packed bit of animation that, in its interplay of music, images and the imagination, manages to recall both Tim Burton's The Corpse Bride and The Triplets of Belleville--albeit with a far more diffuse narrative. Both Light Stains and Fish Head Fugue will be shown during the closing night block on Saturday, in a program that begins at 9 p.m. in the ArtsCenter.

For sheer, old-fashioned filmmaking exuberance, one of the festival's highlights is The Gibbering Horror of Howard Ghormley by Hi Mom! veteran Steve Daniels. Shot in black and white Super-8, Daniels exploits simple artifice--a bag of tricks at least as old as F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu. Relying on shadows, extreme camera angles and sleight-of-hand edits, Daniels' mordant film is a valentine to traditional technique. It also will be shown Saturday night.

click to enlarge Bouncing Bulldogs
  • Bouncing Bulldogs
There are films of local interest, as well. Those who haven't yet had a peek at the infectious and energetic Bouncing Bulldogs will want to catch Stephanie Johnes' 12-minute excerpt from her work-in-progress at Friday night's family-friendly outdoor screening at the Rosemary Street parking deck in Chapel Hill. In the same time slot, one-time Raleigh filmmaker Dave Bauemler follows up last year's angry, bitterly ironic found-footage epic Safety with a more ethereal, poetic effort. Titled Kuboa, it was shot while he was living in Norway and under the influence of Knut Hamsden's writings. Also in this Saturday afternoon program is Sports: A 12-Part History, produced by Nathan Gelgud, a onetime Indy contributor and film gadfly who moved on to New York a few years back. Although a bit burdened by sociological pretension, this 13-minute survey of the American sports tradition has some remarkable and disquieting footage, particularly of an Army-Navy football game attended by the only cheerleader ever to become president of the United States.

Onur Tukel and Amber Tozer collaborate on another installment of their animated The Tozer Show, which received a raucous reception last year. Bring your rubbers to this year's episode, called The Urine Bomber. Durham's Jim Haverkamp's latest is No Money Down, and will be shown at Friday's midnight screening at the ArtsCenter, while onetime Flicker festival mainstay Roger Beebe has an ironic postcard from California called rock/hard place showing Saturday afternoon at the ArtsCenter at 4 p.m.

The 9th Annual Hi Mom! Film Fest runs Thursday, June 15 through Saturday, June 17 in Carrboro and Chapel Hill. Tickets to individual programs are $4 and $5, and a weekend pass is available for $15. Tickets are available at CD Alley and online at www.himomfilmfest.org.

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