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Bay Area Crowdfunding: “Death is No Bad Friend” tells the story of Robert Louis Stevenson fighting death at Mount Saint Helena

I’m slightly embarrassed to admit I had no idea Robert Louis Stevenson, author of such classics as Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, spent time fighting death more than once in the Bay Area. I never questioned how the land mass in the bay came by such a whimsical name as “Treasure Island” without featuring an amusement park or a single pirate ship. It makes so much more sense now.

Robert Louis StevensonThe Scottish-born author’s journey across the United States in 1879 brought him to the brink of death and he spent three months in Monterey recovering. Once he was well enough he carried on to San Francisco where, shortly after taking a new wife, he fell ill once again. To recuperate the author travelled with his family to Mount Saint Helena in what is now known as Robert Louis Stevenson State Park. His recovery at the foot of Mount Saint Helena is the story Siren’s Gaze Productions hopes to tell with support through an IndieGoGo campaign.

Siren’s Gaze was founded during the 2013 Cannes Film Festival by a trio of female filmmakers. Their first project, Death is No Bad Friend, is the story of Stevenson facing his personal demons as he hangs close to death at Mount Saint Helena. They’re seeking between $10,000 and $20,000 to tell this important chapter of often overlooked Bay Area history.

The screenplay is being written by G.E. Gallas who is no stranger to telling the tales of eccentric creatives of the 18th and 19th centuries. Since November 2012 she’s been producing an online graphic novel about poet and painter William Blake called The Poet and the Flea. In her story Blake is visited by “The Ghost of the Flea” who seeks to take advantage of Blake’s grief following his daughter’s death. The story, currently on hiatus, will eventually answer the question of whether or not Blake falls “victim to the fleas corruption.”

UNAFF to screen “The Comic King of Guatemala”

UNAFF Logo

UNAFF Logo

It’s always nice when two of my passions overlap. This time it’s film festivals and comics.

The United Nations Association Film Festival, taking place mostly in Palo Alto, will be screening “The Comic King of Guatemala” on October 23 at 5 p.m. The short documentary tells the story of a passionate comic loving duo who tackle the challenge of opening the first comic shop in Guatemala. It’s an uphill battle not only due to the high illiteracy rate in the country, but also the lack of distributors willing to send new titles. The film screens with “Strong Enough to Fight,” which exams Kenyan youth leaving behind ethnic prejudices when they enter a boxing club, and “Familia Araya,” which follows a foundation’s efforts to use hip-hop to create positive change for kids who have been abused. The trailer for “The Comic King of Guatemala” is below followed by the festival’s description.

The Comic King of Guatemala – Teaser from Oh My! on Vimeo.

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Bay Area enters unofficial film festival season

Cinephiles are spoiled in the Bay Area. Film festivals in the Bay are as common as tourists on Fisherman’s Wharf with a fest seemingly every other week. The rich tapestry of culture that is the Bay is well represented in the festivals with fests dedicated to specific nationalities, sexual proclivities, various causes, and a wide swath of genres. It can be difficult to navigate — especially if a film fan is willing to travel for the sake of celluloid. If any season had to be declared “festival season” in the Bay Area it would likely be these last three months of 2013. Starting at the end of September there are very few opportunities for movie buffs to get out of darkened theaters into the daylight. Below is an effort to create a comprehensive list of film festivals in the region from the end of September through December.

Oakland Underground Film Festival (September 25 – 29, 2013)
Tonight sees the kick-off of the fifth annual Oakland Underground Film Festival with a free screening at Grand Lake Theater of Citizen Koch. As a former Madisonian this film holds a special place in my heart since it features numerous scenes from the 2011 Capitol uprising. That film will be followed by a biopic of Bikini Kill/Le Tigre’s Kathleen Hannah, who is considered one of the pioneers of the riot grrrl movement of the early-90s. The festival continues over the remaining four days with a mixture of narratives, shorts, and documentaries. From the website: “a showcase for independent and Do-It-Yourself film, video, and projection-art based in Oakland, California. The Oakland Underground Film Festival places special emphasis on local filmmakers, social justice, urban life, the environment and works of fiction and non-fiction that thrive outside of classic narrative filmmaking.” OakUFF’s website: http://www.oakuff.org

Mill Valley Film Festival (October 3-13)
Marin County gets in on the festival action with the 36th annual Mill Valley Film Festival. MVFF is a bit more starstruck than many other festivals in the region with spotlights and tributes to Jared Leto, Dakota Fanning, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Ben Stiller, and others. MVFF is an all-encompassing festival featuring films from around the globe  and in multiple genres. According to the festival’s mission: “With its reputation as a filmmakers’ festival, this prestigious noncompetitive event showcases international features, documentaries, shorts and children’s films — something for every filmgoer.” MVFF’s website: http://www.mvff.com
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