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SLIFF: '1000 Journals'

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: November 20, 2008 - This charming, easygoing documentary recounts the development of a quiet project that started in San Francisco with a young man self-named Someguy.

In the summer of 2000, he decided to circulate 1,000 blank journals that he had personally decorated with individual covers. He placed them in public places, obvious and odd, and invited people to use them, share them, pass them all around, and send them back when full. He also put up a website (www.1000journals.com ) and tried to keep track of the results.

Inevitably, the journals went all over the world, got lost, came back, caused joy and tension and eventually attracted filmmakers.

You could call this an oldschool style documentary, the kind that people remember fondly from olden times, when nothing political happened in the entire movie. Nobody is accused of anything that will ruin the economy, destroy the environment or alter the balance of cosmic evil. You need not change your vote afterward.

Without any showing off, the movie makers travel everywhere (Australia, Croatia, Finland, Singapore, etc.) following the books and the artists and writers who find and fill them. Inevitably crazy stuff gets put into the journals (rope, sculptures, receipts, strips of movie film) and eventually the whole project becomes a museum exhibit (right now at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art) and probably a published book.

Art teachers and writing teachers everywhere will beam with pleasure.

Short takes (from programs)

The Thacker Case

SLIFF welcomes home former Metro East resident Brian Jun. Based on a true story, the film examines a controversial case of wrongful death in small-town Iowa.

Nights and Weekends

Joe Swanberg and Greta Gerwig co-write, co-direct and co-star in this intimate portrayal of longing and confusion, with the visits of a long-distance romance becoming reminders of the difficulties, not pleasures, of their relationship.

Pray the Devil Back to Hell

A gripping account of a group of brave and visionary women who demanded peace for Liberia, a nation torn by a decades-old civil war. The film combines contemporary interviews, archival images and scenes of present-day Liberia.

Advertising for the Mob

In this hilariously profane mob comedy -- shot at familiar St. Louis locations -- an ad man decides to go into "business" for himself after being fired from his 12th agency. Displeased by incursions into his territory, the real mob boss (played with brio by the Pasta House Co.'s Kim Tucci) dispatches dimwitted underlings to eliminate the competition.

Mil Mascaras: Resurrection

When the evil and bloodthirsty Aztec Mummy is resurrected, Mascaras is recruited to put it back under wraps. Will he fall under the influence of his undead adversary? The answer hinges on the secret of his mask, which has been passed down through his ancestors since time in memoriam.

Bunny Chow

Aspiring comedians Kags, Joey and Dave make clear that life in Johannesburg is not just about hardship and townships. It's also about friends and celebrating life on a raucous road trip to Oppikoppi, South Africa's largest music festival.

The Custodian (El Custodio)

As a bodyguard for a high-profile politician, Ruben is reduced to a mere shadow of a man: Every action in his life is regulated by a series of mundane routines, and he must trail behind his boss, watching but never speaking.

Waves of Freedom

In 1947, Paul Kaye and 25 other Americans were recruited to help break the British naval blockade and illegally transport Holocaust survivors to Palestine, a trip that proved as torturous and difficult as the Israelites' journey to the Promised Land.

Strength and Honour

Irish boxer Sean Kelleher (Michael Madsen) accidentally kills his friend in the ring and promises his wife he will never box again. Years later, he is forced to break his promise so he can raise the funds needed for a life-saving surgery.

Ben X

Afflicted with Asperger's syndrome, a mild form of autism, Ben finds himself the victim of bullies' relentless attacks. When their abuses finally push him over the edge, Ben's online dream girl helps him devise a perfect plan to confront his tormenters.

Beaufort (Bufor)

During the final days of an Israeli army unit's tense, painful withdrawal in 2000 from a strategic bunker inside a 12th-century fortress near the Lebanese border, the soldiers prepare to explode the site, destroying everything their comrades have fought and died to defend.

Days and Clouds (Giorni e nuvole)

Affluent, sophisticated Elsa and Michele have enough money for Elsa to quit work and study history. After she graduates, Michele confesses he hasn't worked in two months. The growing distance between the couple threatens their most precious possession: the love that binds them.

Timecrimes (Los Cronocrimenes)

Hector sees a naked girl in the woods. When he investigates, a man with a bandaged face stabs him in the arm. A chase ensues, leading Hector to a machine that transports him back in time to just before the incident. Complications ensue when Hector discovers he now shares the world with his "real time" self.

Beautiful Son

The filmmakers took their 3-year-old son (and a camera) to the best doctors when they realized something was wrong. Beau was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. "Beautiful Son" movingly documents a family's struggle to save their son and provides a revealing look at an illness reaching epidemic proportion.

Summer Sun, Winter Moon

A symphony inspired by the Lewis and Clark expedition brings together Rob Kapilow, a composer trying to breathe new life into classical music, and Darrell Robes Kipp, a Blackfeet Indian poet fighting to save his language from extinction. (The work was co-commissioned by the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, and its Powell Hall premiere is prominently featured.)

More Than Just a Game

This docudrama recounts a little-known chapter in the story of South Africa's notorious Robben Island prison. UMSL sports-history professor Chuck Korr unearthed a cache of documents that chronicled a soccer league that the prisoners had formed and meticulously run.

Visual Acoustics - The Modernism of Julius Shulman

Populating his photos with human models and striking landscapes, 97-year-old architectural photographer Julius Shulman combined the organic with the synthetic, melding nature with revolutionary urban design.

Guest of Cindy Sherman

In 1993, artist Paul H-O melded his two great loves - the art world and the videocamera - into his public-access show, "GalleryBeat." One of his biggest fans proved to be reclusive artist Cindy Sherman. They fell in love and began a relationship, but Sherman's superstar status forced Paul to confront difficult issues of ego and identity.

The Trap (Klopka)

Faced with a costly operation to save his critically ill son, Mladen agrees to assassinate a wealthy man for cash after he's assured the target deserves his fate.


An intimate, gritty and poetic look at the lives of carnies, the traveling fairground workers who have abandoned the security of the "real world" for the refuge of the road.

As Slow As Possible

On his 18th birthday, Ryan Knighton was told he would slowly go blind. Fifteen years later, as he prepares to lose his last sliver of sight, Ryan sets out to Halberstadt, Germany, to hear the first note change in a 639-year-long automated organ performance of the John Cage composition "As Slow As Possible."

First Impersonator

For some presidential impersonators, the job brings money and brief entrance into exclusive circles, but it also can blur their senses of self and put their careers in the hands of changing political winds, sometimes with tragic results.

Of Parents and Children (O rodicich a detech)

An aging father and his middle-age son live vastly different lives in this comic drama. The only thing they apparently have in common is their monthly walk, a chance for each to explore his complex and ambivalent feelings toward the other.

Matchmaker Mary

Promised a puppy if she earns straight A's, 12-year-old Mary Carver is rewarded with a visit to the animal shelter. Three Labrador puppies are waiting for a home, and Mary ultimately chooses the adorable Tillie, but encounters with the man and woman who adopt the other pups lead her to play matchmaker.

The Brothers Bloom

With their sexy associate, a pair of scam-artist brothers concoct one final grand scheme, showing a beautiful and eccentric heiress the time of her life with a romantic adventure that takes them around the world.

Used Parts (Partes Usadas)

Ivan and his Uncle Jaime, a dealer of used car parts, dream of immigrating illegally to Chicago. To accumulate enough money, Jamie introduces his nephew to car-part theft, and Ivan recruits best friend Efrain to help.

Ben X

Afflicted with Asperger's syndrome, a mild form of autism Ben finds himself the victim of bullies' relentless attacks. When their abuses finally push him over the edge, Ben's online dream girl helps him devise a perfect plan to confront his tormenters.

The Wedding Director (Il Regista di matrimoni) 

Dissolute filmmaker Franco Elica flees to Sicily, where he meets a host of colorful characters, including a cultured nobleman. The prince, a devoted fan of Franco's work, commissions the director to shoot the wedding of his tempestuous daughter, with whom Franco falls impulsively and dangerously in love.


After decades of timetables, newly retired train engineer Odd Horten struggles with a lack of structure. A warm, absurdist tale, "O'Horten" proves that there is humor to be found in embracing life in all of its idiosyncratic splendor.

The Class (Entre les murs

The docudrama follows Francois Begaudeau (who plays himself) and his fellow teachers as they embark at a high school in a tough multicultural Paris neighborhood. Francois' students test him and challenge his teaching methods.

Days and Clouds (Giorni e nuvole

Affluent, sophisticated Elsa and Michele have enough money for Elsa to quit work and study history. After she graduates, Michele confesses he hasn't worked in two months. The growing distance threatens their most precious possession: the love that binds them.

The Flyboys 

12-year-olds Jason and Kyle sneak aboard a plane at their small town's airport. The boys find themselves trapped and airborne over the open Arizona desert. Worse, they uncover a bomb in the luggage compartment and then find no one flying the plan. But Jason and Kyle's troubles are only beginning.

The Making of WALL-E

Lasky, a director of photography on Pixar's "WALL-E," provides a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the making of the animated hit, discussing the process by which Pixar films are made and showing illustrative clips and unseen footage.

The Empire State Building Murders

This clever pastiche of old movie clips and new "documentary" footage recaptures the Empire State Building in New York during the '30s and '40s. A French declaration of love for America and film noir, the film stands halfway between myth and reality, skillfully blurring fiction and nonfiction.

The Prowler

As part of a special program on the Hollywood blacklist, SLIFF presents a newly restored print of "The Prowler," one of the last films director Losey made in the U.S. before fleeing McCarthy-fueled harassment and relocating to England.

"Dark Days" Panel: The Hollywood Blacklist and Film Noir
Panelists include Marsha Hunt, a victim of the blacklist; noir expert Eddie Muller; Francis M. Nevins, mystery novelist and biographer/literary executor of classic noir writer Cornell Woolrich; and moderator Scott Phillips, author of the contemporary noir novels "The Ice Harvest" and "The Walkaway."

Yesterday Was a Lie 

This groundbreaking new noir is shot in luminous black-and-white. Hoyle, a girl with a sharp mind and a weakness for bourbon, finds herself on the trail of a reclusive genius.