Perhaps "Independent View," the little nod WETA is giving independent film and video for the next seven weeks, is mere tokenism, but the exposure it provides is still much better than nothing. The three films in tonight's premiere, at 11 on Channel 26, all deserve a chance to be seen.
"She May Be Right," a convivial curtain raiser, is a folksy video set to an original tune by the Foggy Bottom Bluegrass Band. Ray Schmitt, who made the video, would have been wise to forgo the awkward and unconvincing lip-sync, and stick to his wobbly but appealing little narrative. The song is good enough to make the video moderately infectious.
"The Buckaroos," by Judith Hallet, produced for a Utah TV station in 1985, rides what's left of the range with what are left of the cowboys. Self-reliant mavericks who would wither and die if chained to a desk or a time clock, these hale fellows whittle and wrangle and, in a particularly informative scene, civilize an obstreperous horse.
They feel "awful close to God" out on the range, one cowboy says, and another, insisting there's "not too much of that Hollywood stuff" in the real West, says of his chosen way of life, "This is all I know, and I don't get an awful lot of romance out of it." It looks romantic, though. Purple mountains do have majesty, after all.
To complete the program, "From Sea to Shining Sea," made in 1985 by the Greenpeace group, pits a team of ecological commandos against Ciba-Geigy Corp., charged with dumping hazardous wastes in the Atlantic off Lavallette, N.J.
In the film, Greenpeace divers bobbing around on a boat notify the company by radio that they intend to plug up the "discharge pipe" doing the damage and suggest it be turned off so as not to endanger the divers. Cordially, the voice on the radio declines. As far as polluting the ocean, the spokesman says, "we do not have all the facts" on that, which is always what spokesmen say when the facts they do have make them look bad.
Clearly this is advocacy journalism, but it includes points of view that are not particularly harmonious with the Greenpeace activism; some residents of the area just aren't concerned. Among those urging patience is the mayor of Toms River, N.J., where the Ciba-Geigy plant is. He has the lyrical name Roden Lightbody.
Others, however, join in the protests, and join hands along the boardwalk for a vigil accompanied by Ray Charles' recording of "America the Beautiful." The report, by Tom Goodwin and Joe Wiedenmayer, is forthright and persuasive. Ciba-Geigy and four of its managers were indicted on charges of illegally dumping wastes and falsifying disposal records. The company was fined $1.45 million for repeated offenses, according to this report.
While all the films and videos in the series were made by Washington area producers, few deal with local topics. Future installments cover Scottish shepherds, Chicago Catholics, medieval music and Greek coffee shops in New York. What's important is that local filmmakers get showcased. For accomplishing that, "Independent View" merits a gold star and a loving cup.