Bloody Well Right

Two film festivals are better than one — Human Rights Watch and SF Indiefest.

As Rachel Swan pointed out in last week’s Express, the Human Rights Watch Film Festival has a little something for every progressive-minded moviegoer in the Bay Area. This Thursday, February 7, and Sunday, February 10, at the Pacific Film Archive (2575 Bancroft Way, Berkeley), the sixth-annual fest screens a trio of politically provocative documentaries.

Shimon Dotan’s Hot House (7 p.m., Thursday) takes us into an Israeli prison where convicted Palestinian “terrorists,” mostly members of Hamas and Fatah, are provided books and study materials by the prison and are encouraged to think through their political grievances — the idea being that reason, and hopefully, nonviolence, will eventually prevail. What a contrast with Guantanamo.

Sunday at 5:30 p.m., Bay Area filmmaker Lynn Hershman Leeson’s doctored-doc Strange Culture shows what happened when Buffalo artist Steve Kurtz called paramedics after his wife had a heart attack. Kurtz was researching biogenetics for an art project, and when the emergency techs spied his Petri dishes, he was arrested on Homeland Security charges. Don’t laugh — it could happen to you.

Then at 7:05 p.m. Sunday evening, director Sebastiàn Moreno Mardones’ doc The City of Photographers strings together clandestine footage shot by ordinary Chileans in the wake of the military takeover of that country by General Augusto Pinochet — a people’s-eye view of a right-wing military coup. It could never happen here, right?

After the festival gives us two weeks to think about what we’ve seen, it returns Sunday, February 24, with Lumo, the story of a Congolese woman raped by political bandits; and Sari’s Mother, a disheartening account of a young Iraqi boy with AIDS. The festival moves to San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (701 Mission St., San Francisco), March 13-30.

West (Bay) Indies: The 10th Annual San Francisco Independent Film Festival, aka SF Indiefest, opens Thursday, February 7, (7 p.m.) at the Castro (429 Castro St., San Francisco) with Shotgun Stories, director Jeff Nichols’ drama about a hardscrabble Arkansas family. More festival highlights: Gus Van Sant’s skateboard movie Paranoid Park, as well as Korean gore (Never Belongs to Me), auto accidents (Stuck), a faux-Peruvian-Marxist-doc (La Trinchera Luminosa del Presidente Gonzalo), and other rarities.

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