Contact: Margot Gerber 323/461-2020, ext. 115

August 29, 2000


HOLLYWOOD – The American Cinematheque’s THE ALTERNATIVE SCREEN: INDEPENDENT FILM SHOWCASE. presents two LA Premieres in September and a revival pick. GIRLS TOWN (Sundance Special Jury Award and Filmmakers Trophy Winner) director Jim McKay’s OUR SONG (96 min.) screens on Thursday, September 7th at 7:30 PM with Tara Veneruso’s short film “Sidewalkers.” This evening is co-presented with the IFP/West’s Festival Buzz series. Over the course of one sweltering summer, three New York, inner city, high school girlfriends edge towards adulthood in an environment of poverty, chaos and insecurity. On Thursday, September 21st at 7:30 pm is Mark Lewis’ newest film, THE NATURAL HISTORY OF CHICKENS (56 min., 2000), a quirky portrait celebrating the virtues and valor of some common chickens. Lewis’ first film CANE TOADS: An Unnatural History (48 min., 1988) will also screen. If Monty Python made a National Geographic Special, this film would be it! Filmmakers are scheduled to appear in person at their respective screenings subject to their availability. All screenings are at the Lloyd E. Rigler Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood (between Las Palmas Ave. & McCadden Place). OUR SONG (96 min.): Thursday, September 7th at 7:30 PM The evening is co-presented with the IFP/West’s Festival Buzz series. “OUR SONG steers clear of the condescension and sentimentality that color most contemporary cinematic portrayals of female adolescence. Even more remarkable, it avoids the sensationalism and ideological point-scoring that dominate most discussions of race, urban poverty and teenage pregnancy.” – A.O. Scott, The New York Times. 

Writer/director Jim McKay (GIRLS TOWN) follows three teenage, best girlfriends: Lanisha (Kerry Washington), Maria (Melissa Martinez) and Jocelyn (Anna Simpson), through the sweltering August streets of Crown Heights, Brooklyn as they face the challenges of growing up in a world filled with uncertainty, risk and ultimately, hope. The one oasis of stability in the midst of the chaos of their lives is Marching Band (the real life Jackie Robinson Steppers). In these closing weeks of summer, the small moments and dramas mean nothing and everything to these young women as they edge toward adulthood. This exquisitely realized, realistic glimpse at teenage inner-city life explores the ways in which family, friends and community compete to shape a young person’s life, plans and path for the future. "Their susceptibility to fears about what the future holds is inextricably intertwined with their capacity for inventive responses. Their emotional vulnerability and fragility are precisely what make them so gloriously brave, sensitive, and expressive," Trevor Groth, Sundance Film Festival. Produced by Paul Mezey (LA CIUDAD) and Diana Williams. Jim McKay will appear for discussion following the film. A reception in the courtyard will follow.

Plus, Tara Veneruso’s short film "Sidewalkers" (7 min.). In the spirit of PAPER MOON, these modern day con artists are a 10-year-old Texan girl and her 5-year-old brother!

New York-based filmmaker Jim McKay is available for interview through or by fax at 212.979.8469. This film is not available for press preview at this time. Press kits and art are available from the filmmaker.

THE NATURAL HISTORY OF CHICKENS (56 min.) & CANE TOADS: An Unnatural History (48 min.): Thursday, September 21 at 7:30 PM This Mark Lewis double feature showcases his most recent foray into animal culture and his first, in a series of highly visual, quirky homages to various species of the Animal Kingdom and their relationships with human beings. CANE TOADS: An Unnatural History (48 min., 1988) If Monty Python produced a National Geographic Special, this would be it! Lewis’ first film exposes one of the most bizarre biological blunders in history. In 1935, the Australian government introduced the Hawaiian Cane Toad in Queensland as a natural means of controlling the Greyback beetle’s infestation of sugar cane crops. While the toads did little to eradicate the insects, they adapted rapidly and have bred to bona fide pest populations -- leading to new ecological disasters. Pest or pet? Australians speak out on the ubiquitous amphibians that some nurture, while others play "connect the dots" -- hitting toad after toad on the road. Still others ingest a psychedelic toad "brew" as a recreational drug. "An absolute delight." Janet Maslin, New York Times Following is the LA PREMIERE of THE NATURAL HISTORY OF THE CHICKEN (56 min., 2000). The latest from Mark Lewis (RAT, ANIMALICIOUS), animal documentarian extraordinaire, is a gorgeously shot look beyond our common knowledge of chickens. It serves up the spirit of the bird – not just a leg page 3 – Alternative Screen and a thigh. While we do learn that Americans are gobbling up more poultry than other types of meat these days (about 80 lbs. per person each year), we also witness inspirational tales of chickens with an incredible will to survive – from Valerie, a frozen chicken who was lovingly revived with mouth to beak resuscitation – to "Miracle Mike" the 1940’s side show attraction who lived 2 years after his beheading (much to the dismay of animal activists). Lewis explores the invincible nature of chickens and their varied relationships with humans, as we travel from a farm where free range chickens move from hatchery, to friend, to dinner table – to Florida where a fancy, white French chicken is an adored pet who is bathed and primped regularly by her doting "mommy." Official selection, Toronto International Film Festival 2000. Mark Lewis will appear for discussion following the screenings. “Chicken” and “Cane Toads” are both available for press screening.

Call Publicist Margot Gerber for press materials at 323.461.2020, ext. 115. Press kits and color photos as well as ” screening cassettes are available. Los Angeles-based filmmaker Mark Lewis is available for interview. Contact him at Radio Pictures, 323.469.5182.

Ticket prices are $7. Additional general information is attached to the Ancient Egypt press release.

The Alternative Screen: A Forum For Independent Film Exhibition And Beyond…, the American Cinematheque’s on-going series focusing on independent and new forms of cinema was created to serve the public as well as the independent film community in Los Angeles by providing a year-round venue for independent feature films that have not yet secured wide commercial distribution. Whatever the ALTERNATIVE SCREEN offers from month to month, it promises to be provocative, innovative and fiercely independent. Select Alternative Screen alumni include THE BIBLE & GUN CLUB, HABIT, STAR MAPS and THE LAST BIG THING. The Alternative Screen takes on-going submissions for consideration of fiercely independent work in all genres. Please send a 1/2” tape to: Margot Gerber, The Alternative Screen, c/o American Cinematheque, 1800 N. Highland Avenue, Suite 717, Hollywood, CA., 90028. Include a SASE if you would like your tape returned. Inquiries should be directed to 323.461.2020, ext. 115. Short films should be sent to the attention of Andrew Crane. For information about the Alternative Screen or other American Cinematheque events, please call 323.466-FILM. THE PROGRAM IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE WITHOUT NOTICE. # # #

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