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Friday, February 26, 1999 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Reel News

`Flav'a Fest' Winds Down This Weekend

Times Staff Columnist

There's a film festival every week now through late March. "Flav'a Fest," the African-American festival that began Monday night, is finishing up tonight and tomorrow at 911 Media Arts Center and Sunday only at the Seattle Art Museum.

Promoted as "an annual journey through the visions, lives and dreams of media makers of African ancestry," the festival's final events include new films from several television filmmakers and stars, including Andre Braugher (from "Homicide"), who appears in the father-son relationship drama, "Louisville," at 7 tonight.

It will be followed at 9 p.m. by "Detention," which marks the directing debut of Darryl Lemont Wharton, a former staff writer on "Homicide." A variation on "The Breakfast Club," this didactic but passionate drama deals with five teenagers and a teacher who goes out of her way to save one of them from a deadly reprisal. Homophobia is also addressed, as it is in James Richards' accompanying short, "Warm Tide."

Tomorrow's "Flav'a Fest" lineup at 911 begins with a free 2 p.m. family matinee: "Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids." Children are encouraged to dress as their favorite Cosby kid; there will be a prize for the best costume. The Saturday evening shows include a collection of shorts, among them Julie Dash's "Illusions" (7 p.m.), and Allison Swan's provocative feature about racial identity, "Mixing Nia" (9 p.m.).

Karyn Parsons (from "Fresh Prince of Bel Air") plays the light-skinned heroine, Nia, the daughter of a black woman and a white man, both 1960s liberals who separated long ago. Pursued by a black teacher (Isaiah Washington) and a white man (Eric Thal), Nia spends much of the film trying to decide where she belongs. Diego Serrano (Rosie Perez's husband in "The 24 Hour Woman") turns up in an amusing supporting role.

The festival closes at 7 p.m. Sunday at the museum with a screening of Marc Levin's "Slam," followed by live jazz and poetry and a reception. Winner of both the Camera d'Or (best first film) at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival and the Grand Jury Prize at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival, "Slam" is a rough, occasionally preachy but compelling drama about an ethical crisis in the life of a young Washington, D.C., rap poet.

Saul Williams plays a pot dealer who gets busted and jailed in a prison where he develops his gifts for rap poetry, with the help of a writing teacher played by Sonja Sohn. The movie is most alive when they're interacting or reciting their words at an emotion-drenched poetry slam that resembles a tent revival.

Despite the intense chemistry of its stars, "Slam" failed to find audiences in theaters last fall. "Flav'a Fest's" creator and programmer, Shinique Smith, is giving it a well-deserved second chance.

Tickets for most events are $5 for 911 members, $7 for others. The closing-night program is $10 for members, $12 for others.

Next up is the Irish Film and Video Festival, "Irish Reels," which begins at 6 p.m. next Friday at Pacific Place with "Freesia of Eden" and the feature-length "2 x 4." A two-day Women's Film Festival opens next Friday at the historic Everett theater with an 8 p.m. showing of "Did You Fold the Napkin Tops?" The Jewish Film Festival opens March 13 at the King Cat Theatre with "The Harmonists."

Around town

Beginning today with screenings of "8mm," General Cinema's Pacific Place is offering two new Kodak devices that will allow moviegoers with vision or hearing loss to enjoy first-run films. This is only the third theater in the country to feature the technology; it's also available at General Cinema theaters in Los Angeles and Chicago . . . A one-day screenwriting workshop, "The Competitive Edge," will be held tomorrow at the Shoreline Conference Center. Information: 206-443-3807 . . . Two documentaries intended to challenge post-industrial thinking, "A Scenic Harvest From the Kingdom in Pain" and "The Pleasures of Uninhibited Excess," are at the Little Theatre on Capitol Hill through Sunday. Both were produced by the Bay Area collective, Survival Research Laboratories (S.R.L.). A new 35mm print of the Dr. Seuss classic, "The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T.," will be screened at 1 and 3 p.m. tomorrow and Sunday at the same location. "Divorce Iranian Style" opens Thursday for a four-day run . . . A new 35mm print of Orson Welles' thoroughly nutty 1948 film noir, "The Lady From Shanghai," kicks off a week of revivals at the Egyptian, where the picture plays tonight through Sunday. "The Big Lebowski" is the midnight movie tonight and tomorrow. Two films by Hiroshi Teshigahara, "Woman in the Dunes" and "Antonio Gaudi," play Monday only, followed by a Tuesday-night Woody Allen double bill: "Wild Man Blues" and "Deconstructing Harry." Two Australian outback classics, "Walkabout" and "Picnic at Hanging Rock," will be screened Wednesday night, followed Thursday by "Pi" and "Stranger Than Paradise" . . . Jet City Improv will provide its own soundtrack to the tacky horror film, "The Alligator People," at 10:30 tonight and tomorrow at the Ethnic Cultural Theater, 3940 Brooklyn Ave. N.E. . . . An improv writers' workshop, The `What If' Challenge, will be held at 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Alibi Room in the Pike Place Market . . . A benefit for the locally produced romantic comedy, "Love My Guts," will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Coastal Kitchen, which is donating a percentage of its dinner proceeds toward finishing funds for the film. The cast and director will attend, and composer Tom McGurk's score will be played . . . Soundtrack Cinema, at 9 p.m. tomorrow on KING FM 98.1, features Bruce Broughton's music from "Lost in Space" . . . The late show at 11 p.m. tonight and tomorrow at the Grand Illusion is the Paul Robeson/Eugene O'Neill classic, "The Emperor Jones." Sam Fuller's "Run of the Arrow" plays at 1 and 3 p.m. Sunday . . . The 1972 movie of Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse Five" will be screened at 7 p.m. Monday in Schafer Auditorium at Seattle University. Admission is free . . . "Twice Upon a Yesterday" was voted best film by the audience at the Women in Cinema Festival, which was held last month at the Egyptian. "Juliette of the Herbs" was named best documentary and "Joint Venture" best short . . . "Composers of the Cinema," a concert of movie music, including "Edward Scissorhands," "The Lion in Winter" and the premiere of Philip Glass' "Itaipu," is scheduled at 8 p.m. tomorrow at Benaroya Hall . . . The Seattle Art Museum continues its Jimmy Stewart series with a 7:30 p.m. Thursday screening of Hitchcock's 1956 thriller, "The Man Who Knew Too Much."

Out of town

A new 35mm print of the classic Joe McCarthy documentary, "Point of Order!," begins a five-day run Sunday at the Capitol Theater in downtown Olympia. Also on the program is the Oscar-nominated "Gods and Monsters" . . . The big prize winner at this year's Sundance Film Festival, "Three Seasons," has its Northwest premiere tonight as part of the Portland International Film Festival, which is ending Tuesday. Information: 503-221-1156 . . . Terrence Malick's "The Thin Red Line" won the top prize at the Berlin Film Festival earlier this week. Stephen Frears was named best director for "The Hi-Lo Country," the Danish "Mifune" won the jury prize, and Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard won a prize for "outstanding single achievement" for "Shakespeare in Love."

Copyright (c) 1999 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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