The Davis Film Festival lasts just 2 1/2 days but targets most ages and sensibilities in the distinctive university town it serves.
Tonight's program at Veterans Memorial Center is "more arty and edgy," said festival founder and director Judith Plank. Films include the 25-minute short "Hold Me Closer," about an organized "cuddle party," or gathering encouraging nonsexual touching, and the 13-minute "Strip," which sounds, from the "mature audiences" tag attached to it, like it might focus on non-cuddle touching.
Saturday afternoon's program, including the documentary "Spirit Ranch," about a ranch focused on equine-assisted therapy, is more family-friendly. Children 12 and younger accompanied by an adult will be admitted free.
All adult tickets are a bargain $7, and the how-low-can-you-go idea a concept fully embraced in a college town goes lowest Tuesday evening at a free wrap party at the International House. Party-goers can eat cake and watch "Thrive," a possibly groundbreaking, possibly crackpot documentary that just see the trailer at www.thrivemovement.com.
The mostly shorts festival's showpiece is Saturday night's "Human Rights Night" program anchored by the full-length documentary "Who Bombed Judi Bari?" The film explores the fascinating life and work of the late Earth First activist Bari, whose Subaru was bombed in 1990 on an Oakland street. (Bari was injured but survived the blast; she died from breast cancer in 1997.)
A "human rights night" suits Davis, a town full of "leftover hippies who are now Ph.D.s," Plank said. The city's activist tradition re-emerged and captured the national spotlight in November, with the police pepper- spraying incident at an Occupy protest on the UC Davis campus.
"There are many parallels, especially in the passion" fueling the Occupy movement and Bari's 1990s protests of corporate mill owners' clear-cutting of old-growth redwood groves, Plank said.
Bari was driving, and fellow Earth First organizer Darryl Cherney was in the passenger seat, when a pipe bomb exploded in Bari's car. Both were injured, Bari far more seriously.
Oakland police and the FBI initially blamed the bombing on Bari and Cherney. Authorities alleged the activists were carrying a bomb, meant for eco-sabotage, that accidentally detonated.
Bari and Cherney were arrested but never charged.
Cherney and Bari sued FBI agents and Oakland police officers for what they said was a frame job. They won, and Bari's estate and Cherney eventually received a total of $4 million.
"Who Bombed Judi Bari?," a film culled by Cherney and director Mary Liz Thomson from television news reports, demonstration footage and most poignantly, the lawsuit deposition Bari gave just before she died, will remind people of Bari's vital role in the environmental movement, Cherney said in a phone interview this week.
Bari is "an historical figure, and a woman who should receive more attention from the history books," said Cherney, 56, who lives in Humboldt County. "She combined environmentalism, labor activism and feminism into an incredible package, articulated by her phenomenal oratory."
The deposition footage, shot a month before she died, allows Bari to "narrate her own story," Cherney said. That story is characterized by levity as well as heartbreak.
The charismatic Bari would play fiddle alongside Cherney on guitar at demonstrations. The car-bombing shattered Bari's pelvis and permanently dislocated two vertebrae, but Bari joked via song that the FBI confiscating her fiddle was the worst of it.
"Judi and I had our own eco- paparazzi," Cherney said with a laugh. "We were pretty much followed around with at least one camera, if not more. We put on colorful, funny demonstrations and videographers who were also activists recognized good footage."
The film shows Bari and other demonstrators using their bodies to block logging roads. It also shows Bari's opposition to tree spiking, a practice once associated with Earth First in which large nails are hammered into trees to discourage the trees from being cut down.
An experienced labor advocate who sought a dialogue with loggers and mill workers, Bari publicly disavowed tree spiking, which could endanger workers.
The film can "educate people as to tactics and strategies," Cherney said, and to victories such as the Headwaters preserve in Humboldt County.
Cherney also wants the film to remind people that the bombing was never solved, he said.
As a condition of his monetary settlement, Cherney must be alerted to changes in evidence handling, he said. In 2010, he went to court to stop the FBI from destroying evidence, and just won a motion allowing him to send to an independent laboratory evidence from the car bombing and from a second bomb, found at a Cloverdale lumber mill, that Cherney believes was built by the same bomber.
Cherney's other settlement condition was met several years ago, when Oakland recognized May 24 the car bombing's anniversary as Judi Bari Day.
"I loved Judi Bari from the day we met until the day she died, and I am not forgetting what somebody or some people did to her," said Cherney, Bari's one-time romantic partner and longtime friend. "Justice delayed in the end will still be justice executed."
DAVIS FILM FESTIVAL
WHEN: 7 tonight, 12:30 and 6 p.m. Saturday and 7 p.m. Tuesday
WHERE: Veterans Memorial Center, 203 E. 14th St. (tonight and Saturday) and International House, 10 College Park (Tuesday)
COST: $7 for each program
INFORMATION: www.davisfilmfest.org, (530) 383-1711