The powerful "Independence Day" by Bobby Roth will launch the Compared To What alternative film festival tonight at 7:30.

It is the first in a series of 11 pictures at the Miya Gallery, 720 11th St. NW, including "Woodstock," Sembene's "Mandabi," "The Last Detail" with Jack Nicholson, "The Harder They Come," Jean-Luc Godard's "See You at Mao" and winding up with the 7-hour epic "Battle of Chile" by Patricio Guzman.

Lectures will accompany many of the films, which will have second showings if necessary. Roth will speak tonight after his film is screened.

Financed partly by the American Film Institute and the National Endowment for the Arts, "Independence Day" is a major addition to the growing list of Los Angeles pictures. It is more than a movie about life in L.A., of course. It is about being black in urban America. It is about work. It is about having a deep relationship with another person but still being "a person all by myself."

Most of all, it is real. Cleanly edited, peopled mainly by nonactors, it rings true in ways that few American films do. It never gives us an emotional rush only to leave us to come down ourselves. The foundry workers strike: great. But what happens when the company fails to fold and the white national union leaders back away?

A woman is stabbed in a family fight: terrible. But how do the relatives cope with the reverberating passions?

Fred and Dulores, together since childhood, split up: exciting, especially to Dulores, who has never been on her own. But what does she say when Fred comes around and wants to start over on a new basis?

For most of us, things don't just go away in life; the people we can't stand don't move to Uruguay; the jobs we are sick of don't suddenly turn scintillating; the rent bill is still due on the first. This is the world that Bobby Roth confronts us with.

The schedule after tonight (all start at 7:30):

Jan. 5, "Courage of the People;" Jan. 19, "Rebellion in Patagonia;" Feb. 9, "Woodstock;" Feb. 23, "Mandabi;" March 2, "The Last Detail;" March 16, "Claudine;" March 30, "The Harder They Come," April 13, "Come Back Africa;" April 27, "See You at Mao;" May 11, "The Battle of Chile."