I recently had the great pleasure of seeing a rough-cut screening of Big City Dick: Richard Peterson's First Movie, a documentary about one of Seattle's most eccentric entertainers (which is saying a lot). Richard Peterson was a longtime fixture on Seattle's street performing scene, though my personal memories come from when he was hired to play piano at the now-defunct club Moe's.
Is this a documentary that can transcend local interest and make a national splash? I think so. Peterson's fanatical love of Johnny Mathis, the surprisingly lush arrangements on his albums, and his intense fascination with musical stings used in '50s TV shows (particularly Sea Hunt) are all much bigger than our city's borders. Interviews with members of Stone Temple Pilots, the Smithereens, and Mathis himself give some star power to the picture, as does an interview with Jeff Bridges (son of Sea Hunt star Lloyd Bridges), who met Peterson when he was in Seattle filming American Heart. The filmmakers are currently prepping a cut to submit to Sundance, and we'll probably see the movie in theaters next year. Meanwhile, check out their website (www.bigcitydick.com) for updates.
For those who want to see some documentaries NOW, this is your lucky week. The Little Theatre is running its First Person Cinema series (see the article to the left of this). That series has one film in particular that I want to write about. How to Draw a Bunny was my favorite film at Sundance 2002, and I've been waiting for it to return ever since. Finally, it has. Bunny is the portrait of the artist Ray Johnson, a man whose life was one big performance piece and whose suicide by drowning may very well have been his most ambitious artwork. Interviews with New York art world heavy hitters such as Christo, Chuck Close, and Roy Lichtenstein only prove how elusive a personality Johnson really was and give the movie a Citizen Kane-like structure in its wildly different perspectives on a powerfully interesting man.
Over at the Indy Media Center (1415 Third Ave, between Pike and Union) on Tuesday, September 30, they're showing Subvertisers, a locally made documentary about the rise in anti-corporate media activism after the WTO's "Battle in Seattle" riots. At first I was worried that it was going to be your standard anti-advertisements propaganda, but the movie becomes much more balanced than that, which makes for a fine viewing experience.
Finally, on Friday, September 26, the Rendezvous is hosting another screening of the SIFF-produced Fly Films. On the very same night over at 911 Media Arts is another local production, Toxic Gardens. That's about the "toxic plume" spreading under the Georgetown neighborhood, and it's playing as a double feature with Playing with Poison, which is about pesticide-inspired birth defects in Mexico.