Flicks - Field and stream

Downstream Film Festival gushes into Gainesville

The first Downstream Film Festival, held July 18-21 in Gainesville, will screen 127 films of varying lengths and styles, from documentary features to experimental animation. The event gives special attention to short films, including a "Best of the Atlanta Film Festival" shorts program and a "Best of Flashbang!" program of Flash-based animation.

Presented at the John S. Burd Center for the Performing Arts at Brenau University, Downstream features some shorts that succeed simply as comedy sketches. The mockumentary "Seat Fillers!" looks at the auditions and training of the people who occupy empty seats at star-studded awards show. Tony Martin's locally filmed "A Holiday Memento" offers an amusing, one-joke spoof of one of last year's biggest cult movies, although the humor wears out slightly before the film itself.

Marietta teenager Eric Forrest uses Claymation and a variety of other animated styles to explore Greek and Japanese legends in "Perseus" and "Japanese Mythology." Forrest's films have an irreverence reminiscent of "Pee Wee's Playhouse," but they're also infused with the simple excitement at the storytelling possibilities of cinema.

The 30-minute "8 Ball" by Tracy Taylor offers a cliched chick flick with weak writing and acting as two women predictably bicker and bond at a chance meeting in a deserted motel. But "A Smile Gone, But Where?" by Kevin Breslin offers a pleasant surprise in dramatizing a column by the filmmaker's father, New York journalist Jimmy Breslin. The columnist reads the story in voice-over as he and Karen Duffy act out a chance encounter on the New York streets. The premise may sound precious and indulgent, but the film works surprisingly well in illustrating a quiet after-shock of Sept. 11.

As an extra added benefit, the festival presents "Downstream II" Aug. 1-3 at Earthshaking Music's Performance Space as part of the IG (Independent Georgia) Music Art Film Festival. Downstream Festival Director Michael Williams says the 60 films in the lineup reflect IG's independent sensibility: "In Gainesville, we programmed like our grown-up selves, while at Downstream II we could revert to 'bein' all punk rock.'"The Downstream Film Festival is July 18-21 at the John S. Burd Center for the Performing Arts, Brenau University, 429 Academy St., Gainesville. $5 per screening. 770-998-2288. www.downstreamfest.com. Downstream II is Aug. 1-3 in conjunction with IG Music Art Film festival at Earthshaking Music, 543 Stokeswood Ave., East Atlanta. $25 for four-day pass, which includes admission to all IG events. 1-800-594-TIXX. www.independentgeorgia.org.