Awake: Short Works by Doug Aitken

Fri June 6, 8 pm at Experience Music Project.Doug Aitken is an internationally recognized video installation artist, and as with every internationally recognized video artist, he has made his share of music videos. On display here are videos he made for Interpol and u-Ziq, but all of his work is cut to a rhythmic and visual beat. Though he works with installations, this program is being presented in a "single channel" format, meaning it's being projected onto a single screen. Even so, it's got a bigger and more complex feel to it, as many of his pieces juxtapose two, three, and sometimes four moving images simultaneously. Sometimes he's contrasting the audio of auctioneers with the distribution of consumer goods, exploring the deserts surrounding African diamond mines, or comparing pop-lock breakdancing with electronic repetitions in the everyday world. It's certainly worth a look.

For those who want their MTV without all the art, the next two nights have programs for you. Saturday is all about the Shynola collective, who make goofy animated videos for the likes of Radiohead, U.N.K.L.E., Lambchop, Queens of the Stone Age, and plenty others. Sunday looks East to music videos in Asia, with music from regional pop and underground scenes, as well as a DJ Shadow video directed by none other than Wong Kar-wai. Hey, and if you're in the neighborhood Saturday and Sunday during the day, stop by the Sky Church to see free examples of the Exploding Cinema program blown up onto EMP's Jumbotron video screen. ANDY SPLETZER

Sweet Sixteen

dir. Ken Loach

Fri June 6, 9:30 pm at Broadway Performance Hall; Sun June 8, 6:45 pm at Harvard Exit.Like Mike Leigh, Ken Loach does not hide his leftist leanings, and sometimes their common desire to expose societal injustices can lead to didactic movies. That is certainly not the case with Sweet Sixteen, which is a wonderful and engaging movie that happens to be set amongst the lower classes of Scotland. Liam is on the verge of his 16th birthday. His mom is in prison and her boyfriend is an asshole drug dealer. He dreams of creating a stable home for his mother so she doesn't start using when she's released, and the only way he can do that is through dealing drugs himself. Liam's business sense is good enough to attract the attention and financial support of the local kingpin. If only his sense of people were as good.

Loach succeeds with Sweet Sixteen by eschewing the urban poetry of the situation for the business side, and his discovery of Martin Compston for the role of Liam will benefit many filmmakers to come. Though Compston has never acted before, he is a natural, and if he doesn't screw up his potential he could be the next Russell Crowe, though hopefully better behaved. ANDY SPLETZER

11' 09" 01

Various directors

Sun June 8, 11:30 am at the Egyptian.French producer Alain Brigand asked 11 directors from around the world to participate in this multi short-film collaboration in response to the events of September 11. The result is 11 films, each 11 minutes, nine seconds, and one frame long, told with "complete freedom of expression." Like most assemblages, some of the films are sincere and preachy to an embarrassing degree, others profoundly affecting. The best and most timeless include Ken Loach's (Sweet Sixteen) straightforward documentary on a survivor of Chile's 1973 Caravan of Death, Shohei Imamura's (The Eel) surreal tale of a WWII soldier who decides to live his life out as a snake rather than remember the atrocities of committed warfare, and Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu's (Amores Perros) montage of news images that bring back memories of September 11 with brutal, abstract force. Now, nearly two years and two U.S. wars later, it is the opening film by Iranian filmmaker Samira Makhmalbaf (The Apple) that resonates long and hard. Afghan school children--who make bricks for bomb shelters more than they attend class--are interrupted with news that something "very bad" has happened in America. Their naive responses are a cogent reminder that we all, as citizens of history and the world, are in this together. SHANNON GEE

Buffalo Soldiers

dir. Gregor Jordan

Sat June 7, 9:30 pm at the Egyptian; Sun June 8, 4 pm at the Egyptian.Up until its lamely explosive climax, Buffalo Soldiers for the most part lives up to its intent. Said intent is to skewer the American military machine, a land of much fertile acres, and even if this time around the endeavor doesn't entirely gel, at least the effort is entertaining.

The plot: Think Sgt. Bilko, only mean--or don't, since this doesn't really do the picture complete justice. The tale of corrupt, lawbreaking soldiers stationed in West Germany just before the wall fell, it stars Joaquin Phoenix as Ray Elwood, a supply clerk serving his time in Uncle Sam's battery stealing and scheming as much as he can. It is an absurdly prosperous time for Elwood and his cronies as they dabble in everything from black-market cleaning supplies to cooking heroin. It doesn't last, sadly, as trouble arrives in the form of a new sergeant named Robert Lee (Scott Glenn), whom Elwood immediately locks horns with. Their clash, certainly not helped by Elwood's diddling Lee's daughter (Anna Paquin), eventually leads to a fairly unnecessary big boom that, though not completely destructive for the picture, nonetheless forces all the previous work to limp to the finish line. Still and all, the bulk of the film is a worthy effort. BRADLEY STEINBACHER

ALSO RECOMMENDED: On Wed June 11, 2:30 pm at the Egyptian, there will be a second screening of SIFF's wildly popular Fly Films. Featuring 10 local documentary filmmakers--including Sherman Alexie, Tanya Hughes, Jen Peel, and our own Shannon Gee, among others--tackling subjects as varied as coffee, transportation, and water, all in five-minute documentaries, it is a grand showcase for our city's considerable local film talent.