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Sunday, June 20, 2010

David Weissman's "We Were Here"

We Were Here creative team: Marsha Kahm (director of photography), Bill Weber (editor/ co-director), Lauretta Molitor (sound recordist), David Weissman (producer/director)

Today James and I saw two documentaries at the 34th SF queer film festival - at the Castro, David Weissman's We Were Here, a documentary about the AIDS epidemic, then a doc about William S. Burroughs at the Victoria. I tried to post this to the We Were Here Facebook page, but couldn't. I knew I was keeping this blog around for something:
David, what an unforgettable experience to see this today in that theater with that audience.

To echo what others have already said, it made me so proud to be a San Franciscan - not just because of the response this city summoned to the epidemic, but because such a masterly work of art about it came from here. I want to thank you again for what you accomplished - and it's something I'll study in the years to come - how you established so much trust in the opening minutes of the film that you could take us to such terrible places, take me so much farther than I thought I would be able to go without putting up defenses, shutting down, turning away.

The film is an object lesson in the power of restraint: you built up so much capital, and then you spent all of it, and wisely. I left the theater exhilarated today, no less by the spirit and humanity of your five subjects and the world they stood for and evoked than by the compassion and psychological brilliance of the choices you and Bill made.

It's hard to imagine more hazardous territory for a documentary or a more successful execution. Thank you for making this film.

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Paul Festa’s first film, Apparition of the Eternal Church (2006, 51 min), captures the responses of 31 artists to the apocalyptic music of Olivier Messiaen (with Justin Bond, John Cameron Mitchell, Harold Bloom; screenings: Grace Cathedral, Barbican Centre, Library of Congress; “Remarkable”The New Yorker; “Stunning”Chicago Sun-Times; “Sublime”Globe & Mail; numerous awards). Festa performs the Tchaikovsky violin concerto, opposite members of the San Francisco Ballet and The Cockettes, in his award-winning second film, The Glitter Emergency (2010, 20 min), a silent-film drag ballet comedy (“Enormous visual and musical inventiveness…full of pleasure and joy...Festa gives a bravura performance."—Film Threat). He produced, wrote and edited, with director Austin Forbord, and was chief archivist, for the Emmy-nominated documentary Stage Left: A Story of Theater in San Francisco (2010, 80 min: with Robin Williams, Bill Irwin, Peter Coyote; screenings: Geary Theater, KQED; “Intriguing...entertaining...a valuable record”—Variety). Performances as violinist and actor: ODC Theater, Center for Performance Research, Kunst-Stoff, TheatreFIRST, North Bay Shakespeare, Albert Fuller's Helicon Ensemble (Merkin Hall, Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall). US, Boston, NYC, SF, LA and DC (Coolidge Auditorium at the Library of Congress on the “Betts” Stradivarius) premieres of Messiaen’s Fantaisie for violin and piano. He is the author of OH MY GOD: Messiaen in the Ear of the Unbeliever, based on Apparition of the Eternal Church, and several anthologized essays, and has written for The Daily Beast, Salon, Nerve, and The New York Times Book Review. Current projects include a novel and Tie It Into My Hand (2014, ca. 80 min), a documentary feature that has screened as a work in progress at the Cannes film market and at ODC Theater in San Francisco (with Alan Cumming, Gary Graffman, Peter Coyote, Mink Stole, Robert Pinsky; "A fascinating exploration of the artistic life, as rollickingly entertaining as it is insightful and stirring."San Francisco Bay Guardian). Education: Yale (B.A.; prizes, honors, distinction), Juilliard (Cert., Adv. Cert., scholarships). Residencies: Yaddo, MacDowell, ODC Theater, Centre des R├ęcollets.