Week of February 11, 2004

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Horror Hotline...Big Head Monster (unrated) Cheang Pou-soi. The mysterious and dreaded Big-Headed Baby, born 40 years earlier, galvanizes the Horror Hotline, a popular Hong Kong radio show, after the tantalizingly elusive caller Chris recounts experiences that ricochet into the present. On hand with a crew to shoot a feature about the show, American television reporter Mavis works with Hotline producer Ben to pursue the investigation into a series of inexplicable videotape images, apparent suicides, a catatonic patient, a Muslim principal and his daughter. Any critical reflection on the silly premise or characters' arbitrary actions misses the beauty of director Cheang's triumph of style over substance. Despite clichéd horror film gotchas, Horror Hotline sustains a disconcerting atmosphere via claustrophobic hallways, eerie blue or high-contrast lighting, heavy rain, sinister music and sound effects alternating with unnerving silence and a mesmerizing camera that glides through scenes. Ultimately, sinister suggestion trumps minimal gore. In Cantonese with English subtitles. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, February 17, in the Lewis Room of the Fontbonne University Library, 6800 Wydown. Call 314-719-8061 for more information. (Diane Carson)

Sisters in Cinema (unrated) Yvonne Welbon. With heartfelt commitment, award-winning documentarian Yvonne Welbon recognizes the contributions and untapped potential of historical and contemporary African-American women filmmakers. Through interviews with contemporary black women directors and interspersed (though regrettably short and unanalyzed) film clips from recent and early works, Welbon chronicles, among many others, Tressie Souders, the first black female director of a feature; Maya Angelou, who made her first feature at age 70; Julie Dash, director of Daughters of the Dust, the first film by an African-American woman to receive national theatrical distribution; and Kasi Lemmons, director of Eve's Bayou, the top-grossing independent film of 1997. Though marred by disjointed organization, little depth and Welbon's own unnecessary inclusion, Sisters in Cinema does provide long-overdue acknowledgement of these inspirational artists. Welbon leads a documentary workshop, cosponsored by dhTV, on Saturday, February 14, from 1 to 4 p.m. in Sverdrup 123, 8300 Big Bend. Sisters in Cinema screens at 7 p.m. Friday, February 13, through Sunday, February 15, in the Moore Auditorium on the campus of Webster University, 470 E. Lockwood Avenue. Call 314-968-7487 for more information. (Diane Carson)

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