Locally Made Short Slide Rail Superman Is Comic Highlight of SF Indie Fest
The San Francisco Independent Film Festival (SF IndieFest) has a reputation for screening some of the best independent movies anywhere. The 15-year-old festival taps into the City’s seemingly infinite and rich well of talent, and features several movies made by Dogpatch or Potrero Hill-based directors. The festival runs February 7 to 21 at the Roxie Theater, with opening night at the Brava Theatre; and February 8 to 15 at the Shattuck in Berkeley.
The hilarious mockumentary Slide Rail Superman — made by David Santamaria, who teaches film at Bay Area Video Coalition, and Donald Harrison, a former Mission District resident who cut his teeth at South-of-Market’s Film Arts Foundation — is a rare cinematic gem in the “Of Cults, Manholes & Slide Rail Riders” shorts program. The film follows the ups and downs of one man and his sherpa-trainer’s dream to achieve greatness as a champion slide railer.
Santamaria plays the lead character, whose adventures in adversity are the heart and soul of this warm, funny bone-tickling tale. Slide Rail portrays slide railing as an urban competitive sport. The City, with its multitude of hills and stairways, is the perfect backdrop for a quirky quest to beat a mysterious Grim Reaper-like stranger in a red hoodie sliding down San Francisco’s longest banisters and railings. Shot in dozens of locations around San Francisco, the film features many beloved and recognizable landmarks in the Mission and Bernal Heights.
The concept for the movie came from Santamaria’s own childhood in Long Island. “It was something me and my friends did growing up.” Santamaria moved to San Francisco in the early-1990s. “In those days you could still live in a place with reasonable rent which gave you time to experiment and try different things.” With a degree in psychology and experience as a mental health counselor, the self-described late bloomer thought it was time to find a career. He wanted to do something creative, and work with teens. Santamaria started making films in in his early 30s — “no-budget comedies” — while attending City College.
Santamaria first collaborated with Harrison in 1996. The two met while working at a Market Street residential hotel for people with HIV/AIDS as counselor and administrative assistant respectively. They became friends, and made improvisational films together. Harrison moved to Michigan a few years ago to become director of the Ann Arbor Film Festival. In the last five years, Santamaria has kept himself busy teaching film to adults looking to re-train themselves or just starting out in life.
Manhole 452 is a fictional tale drawn from factual interviews and research that follows the reflections of a middle-aged man whose car was hit by an exploding manhole. Relying on first person narrative, the film directs the viewer’s attention to the varied shapes, sizes and patterns of manhole covers in the City, as the main character — who is never seen — rides the 38 Geary bus from the ocean to the Bay to his job fitting prosthetic limbs. Manhole 452 plunges below the surface to explore the hidden threat that lies beneath the streets. A voiceover explores the main character’s obsession with calculating odds, and the possibility of miracles, amid the presence of random violent occurrences.
Made by Hill resident, California College of Arts instructor and experimental artist Jeanne Finley and multimedia artist John Muse, Manhole 452 includes soundtrack contributions from local luminaries Pamela Z, of Project Artaud, and Jim McKee, of Earwax Productions.
Finally, The Beginning focuses on one moment of passion, fear and hope on a cold dark night as two naked strangers struggle to connect. The short is the work of Mission District filmmaker Brian Tolle and playwright-producer Tom Swift.
For more information on screenings and tickets, visit sfindie.com.
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