Arriving earlier than in its five past spring iterations (when it competed with, and got trampled by, SIFF), Satellites 2003: Screens From Outer Spaces will run Thursday, April 17 through Sunday, April 27 at seven local venues including the Little Theatre, Consolidated Works, and 911 Media Arts Center. (Visit www.emeraldreels.com/satellites for a full schedule of events.) The great appeal to Satellites, as in past years, is its low-cost D.I.Y. spirit of anything-goes "microcinema," meaning movies both good and bad, plus free parties to begin and conclude the fest. It's impossible to describe everything on the bill, but here are some highlights.
Blue Skies, playing April 26 at 911.
"I'll make my own kicks," exclaims a young sheet-metal stamper in the 1961 curio Assembly Line, being shown 8 p.m. Friday, April 25 at 911 as part of a program titled "The Appallingly Bleak Films Experiment." And bleak is just what a night out on the town turns out to be for our hero, whose soul-crushing factory job is echoed by his soul-crushing experiences in Times Square. He gets hustled for drinks, goes to a movie alone (where he fantasizes he's on-screen), and eats solo at the Horn & Hardart automatpretty much a full evening of existential despair.
By contrast, the clueless, eponymous hero of Hunter Dawson is full of straight-outta-O.C. "intensity and perseverance," even if he's being shot down by every Portland hottie he harasses in bars. The mockumentary purports to be an audition reel for reality TV shows, and Hunteractually director Andrew Dickson sporting an impressive two-tone haircutis every bit as ridiculous and cheerfully self-deluded as anyone on elimiDATE. It shows with nine other standout shorts from last year's Portland's Northwest Film & Video Festival (8 p.m. Saturday, April 26 at 911). Seattle director Wes Kim's hilarious Profiles in Science is also part of this greatest-hits package.
On the artier side of things, Peter Rose's The Darkening screens at the UW at 5 p.m. Sunday, April 20 as part of a program of his avant-garde work. Here, the Philadelphia artist kind of goes Blair Witch on us with a nighttime montage of waving flashlights and buzzing bee sounds. Bach competes with clanging, clanking industrial noise as a metropolis settles into unquiet sleep. There's a lovely glimpse of city lights through an airplane windowlike the plane is a submarine descending into inky waters.
Olympia filmmakers show their colors in the "North Meets South Film Exchange" (4 p.m. Saturday, April 19 at the Jewel Box). In one lo-fi work, Catcycle, director Devon Damonte photocopied onto film leader the early cinema experiment in which a tossed cat rights itself in midair to land on all four feet. It's a silent two-and-one-half-minute loop, as a ghostly, barely recognizable feline form emerges from the grain and blurlike watching a photograph develop in emulsion. The tension isn't whether the cat will land safely (it always does), but whether the image will resolve into something recognizable. Usually it's a given at the movies that the sound will be clear and the picture sharp, but Catcyleand the rest of Satellites' fareteases that expectation in a way the multiplex, or SIFF, would never dare.