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Pasatiempo - SFIFF at Center for Contemporary Arts view website

Pasatiempo - SFIFF at Center for Contemporary Arts


Documentary, not rated, 81 minutes, 3.5 chiles

Anyone who skips this martial-arts movie will be overlooking one of the most moving documentaries of the year. It is so seamless that it almost appears to be a narrative feature. Only after 30 minutes or so will you become fully aware this is a wholly engaging real-life saga.

Joe Carman stars as a hard-scrapping, blue-collar fighter from the Pacific Northwest who doesn't want to give up his pugilistic pastime, even though his persistence in the ring carries a heavy price now that he's forty, married, and responsible for raising four daughters. It's like watching Rocky, except Carman's a goat-keeper, risking everything for a fleeting dream he can't hope to maintain. He's a tough man to dislike, even when he makes whopping mistakes that alienate everyone who loves him the most. Jeff Unay directed and also shot the cinematography, which is simply dazzling and prescient. Executive producer Andrea Meditch, who lives in New Mexico, previously produced Man on Wire and Grizzly Man. -- Jon Bowman

Center for Contemporary Arts, 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 19; 2:30 p.m. Oct. 22


Drama, rated R, 87 minutes, 2.5 chiles

Stephen Dorff and Melanie Griffith head up this 2000 film, John Waters' satirical send-up of the trials of moviemaking. A crazed independent director finds a unique way to get his film produced: under the threat of violence. Dorff is Cecil, who leads a cultlike, sexually frustrated group of renegades, the Sprocket Holes, on a mission to infiltrate a Baltimore theater and kidnap Hollywood diva Honey Whitlock (Griffiths), an aging movie star on the eve of the world premiere of her new movie. Cecil forces her to star in his own film, which he gets made guerrilla-style, with assaults on the set of a Forrest Gump sequel called Gump Two, as well as raids on the Maryland Film Commission, the porn industry, and unsuspecting cinema audiences -- who sometimes fight back.

Cecil B. DeMented is almost a return to the type of trash that's characteristic of Waters' pre-Polyester days, when he gave us over-the-top stuff like the dog-poop-eating diva Divine. The jokes are tasteless, but that?s to be expected -- Waters is the King of Trash, after all, though here it feels like a well-trod path. Still, he has the power to make you squirm now and then, and Cecil B. DeMented provides some solid laughs. There are plenty of familiar faces, such as Waters' regulars Mink Stole, Patty Hearst, and Ricki Lake, along with other celebrities including Eric Roberts, Maggie Gyllenhaal, who was mostly unknown at the time, and Roseanne Barr. -- Michael Abatemarco

Center for Contemporary Arts,12 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 19; 10 p.m. Oct. 20


Documentary, not rated, 74 minutes, in Ladakhi with subtitles, 3.5 chiles

The Santa Fe International Film Festival offers two documentary features set in the remote mountains of Ladakh, India: Becoming Who I Was, about a child believed to be the reincarnation of a sacred rinpoche, and The Shepherdess of the Glaciers. The latter film, co-directed by Christiane Mordelet and Stanzin Dorjai, the brother of Tsering, the shepherdess of the film's title, is a tale of devotion in a place where one misstep can mean sudden death. Tsering is a stoic woman, among the last shepherdesses in the region and committed to preserving a dying occupation. At 16,500 feet up in the Gya-Miru Valley, Tsering tends a flock of hundreds of sheep and goats facing predation by wolves and snow leopards (one of which crawls inside her tent one night). She deals with the threat of harsh winters, and, save for her bond to the animals, loneliness.

The film was the Grand Prize winner at the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival in 2016. To the viewer, the landscape Tsering inhabits is alternately beautiful and barren and always rugged. Her remarkable story is one of resilience, and she possesses an indomitable spirit. Still, it's heartbreaking to hear her tell how much it's like losing her only friend when her old radio -- her main connection to the greater world and an object she calls her mom, her dad, her brother, and her sister -- stops working. She lives without most of the amenities most of us are used to, miles from the nearest human contact, except for when Stanzin comes to stay with her. We learn she chose this life years before instead of marrying, opting to maintain an existence as the last herder in her family. But she does get homesick for the life she left behind, especially at night when it's bitter cold.

Hers is a remarkable story, filmed over the course of four seasons when Tsering was fifty years old, that also offers insights into the Buddhist way of life, one that enables Tsering to cope with the difficulties she faces. She takes simple pleasure in her intimate relationship with her flock, leading them through perilous terrain on the quest to find pastures for grazing. Were it not for the fact that her occupation involves extremely hard work with no respite, and no time off, one almost envies her off-the-grid existence, and certainly admires her determination to survive. -- Michael Abatemarco

Center for Contemporary Arts, 4 p.m Thursday, Oct. 19; 12:30 p.m. Oct. 20

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