The Madcat Women’s International Film Festival, at 11 years old, is a young film festival by Bay Area standards, and the festival acts its age in the best of ways. Its mix of women’s films is generally wildly irreverent and often plucked from the margins — not just the margins of form, since a lot of the work is experimental, but also the furthest reaches of the planet. Its exhibition is freed as well from the constraints of festival tradition and convention — with films shown under the sky at the El Rio, “Your Dive,” where BBQ and beer precede the official entertainment, as well as in the heart of the Mission at Artists’ Television Access, with a few shows at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Here are a few quick takes on programs that look particularly worthwhile. The festival runs through Sept. 26.
1. ID Docs
An “identity” program with non-cliched concepts of what creates the essential “you,” ID Docs includes a film about the perceptions of an albino girl, a meditation on widows of a Baltic sea-coast village town, and a nonfiction look at identical twins expressing their individuality. (Tues/18, 8:30 p.m, El Rio.)
2. A Tribute to Helen Hill
Billed as “an evening of handcrafted 16mm films by the late, the great, Helen Hill,” this program the work of a DIY original and author of Recipes for Disaster: a handcrafted film cookbooklet, who, after surviving Hurricane Katrina, and working to clean her flood-damaged films, was shot, at age 36, by an intruder into her New Orleans home. (Wed/19, 8:30 p.m., El Rio.)
3. My Daughter the Terrorist
With startling access, Beate Arnestad’s impressive and fascinating film about two young, female Tamil Tigers, takes political documentary filmmaking a step further, not just offering historical context for the horrific and suicidal situation these two 20something women find themselves in, but also giving us full view of their surprisingly sweet and sentimental natures as they bond with each other and say goodbye to the world. (Fri/21, 7:30 p.m., ATA)
4. 4 Elements
Jiska Rickels beautifully lensed film reduces life to its basics: fire, water, earth, air — and work as it frames the hours of Siberian forest firefighters, king crab fisherman on the Bering Sea, German mineworkers, and Russian cosmonauts. (Sun/23, 7 p.m., YBCA)
5. Between States
An SF Cinematheque co-presentation, the program offers experimental takes on immigrant stories by Jacqueline Goss (“Stranger Comes to Town”), a new anti-war short by Lynne Sachs (“The Small Ones”), and a dazzlingly structured piece of visual poetry by Julia Meltzer and David Thorne, “We Will Live to see These Things, or five pictures of what may come to pass,” that moves through the strange history of downtown Damascus building, an equestrian event, and more, all shot in Syria during 2005-6. (Sun/23, 8:30 p.m., YBCA)
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