If you've ever thought seriously about making a film of your own, you might first want to take a look at Doug Block's "The Heck With Hollywood" (United States, 1990). This nimble, amazingly comprehensive little documentary about the travails of independent moviemaking is what you might call a major dose of reality. In it Block shares with us the experiences of three independents -- Jennifer Fox ("Beirut: The Last Home Movie"), Ted Lichtenheld ("Personal Foul") and Gerry Cook ("Only a Buck") -- and his advice to those who might try it for themselves might be summed up this way: Don't. Following his subjects as they take their works from conception through completion, he shows the unfathomable hardships, both financial and spiritual, of getting a movie made and getting it seen. He shows how these hardy dreamers have their lives consumed by their projects, struggle for money, beg, borrow and go into debt only to have their films be given a halfhearted release and find the tiniest of audiences. Only Fox's film, which made the rounds of the festival circuit, received generally enthusiastic reviews and won a number of prizes, can be counted a success; of the three, she's the only one with another project in the works. It's a cold, cruel world out there for independents, but Block's point of view isn't despairing. As he salutes the pluck and dedication of his subjects, he also portrays them ever so slightly as the butts of a grim joke. Everything goes to hell, but ever eager, his dreamers are raring to go again. -- Hal Hinson
Also scheduled for Filmfest DC today:
Under African Skies (United Kingdom, 1989, 120 minutes). Directed by Mark Kidel. The latest trends and trendsetters in African music, explored through interviews and performances. 12:30 p.m., American Film Institute.
Inventory (Poland, 1989, 115 minutes). Directed by Krzysztof Zanussi. A former censor is befriended by a student who takes her to live with him. 3 p.m., American Film Institute.
No, or the Vain Glory of Command (Portugal, 1990, 100 minutes). Directed by Manoel de Oliveira. The epic story of Portugal, from the dawn of the Iron Age to the Portuguese revolution of 1974. Narration is provided by a lieutenant in the last colonial war, which serves as a backdrop to the film. 4 p.m., Cineplex Odeon Jenifer.
Close-Up (Iran, 1990, 100 minutes). Directed by Abbas Kiarostami. An unemployed man passes himself off as a celebrated filmmaker, is discovered and arrested. 4 p.m., AMC Union Station 9.
Door to the Sky (Morocco, 1988, 90 minutes). Directed by Farida Ben Lyazid. A Moroccan woman, Western-educated, is caught between her two worlds after the death of her father. 6 p.m., AMC Union Station 9.
The Heck With Hollywood! (United States, 1990, 57 minutes). Directed by Doug Block. The struggles of three people who risk everything to get their big Hollywood break. (A panel discussion with the director and distributor follows the screening.) 6 p.m., American Film Institute.
Cabeza de Vaca (Mexico, 1989, 112 minutes). Directed by Nicolas Echevarria. The story of one of the first explorers of the New World, Cabeza de Vaca, concentrates on his mystic qualities. 6:30 p.m., Cineplex Odeon Jenifer.
The Kill Off (United States, 1989, 92 minutes). Directed by Maggie Greenwald. A malicious gossip and those around her set off a chain of events that ends badly for all. 8 p.m., American Film Institute.
Resident Alien (United States, 1990, 85 minutes). Directed by Jonathan Nossiter. The gay British icon, Quentin Crisp, comes to New York. 8:30 p.m., AMC Union Station 9.
Ava and Gabriel: A Love Story from the Caribbean (The Netherlands, 1990, 100 minutes). Directed by Felix de Rooy. A Surinam painter returns to Curacao to paint a mural of the Virgin Mary for a church. His choice of a beautiful model, with whom he falls in love, causes consternation in the colony. 8:45 p.m., Cineplex Odeon Jenifer.
Step Across the Border (Germany, 1990, 90 minutes). Directed by Nicholas Humbert and Werner Penzel. Musician Fred Firth's tour is followed all over the world. 10 p.m., Biograph.