"A winning look at sidewalk book peddlers"
Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
High-tech filmmaking grabs the headlines, especially when
epics like "Gladiator" and "Mission: Impossible 2" hit the
screen. But low-tech filmmaking remains alive and well,
allowing directors to take more personal approaches to more
Take the new "BookWars," by Jason Rosette, a proudly
independent filmmaker. Its topic has never received
feature-length treatment before, even though it's familiar
to anyone who's strolled down a city sidewalk: the
street-side booksellers who peddle their wares like urban
nomads, braving all kinds of weather and occasional raids
Staying true to his subject, Rosette has filmed "BookWars"
not in glossy 35mm film, but in a range of inexpensive
formats including Super-8 film, Super VHS, digital video,
and two kinds of 8mm video. This lends an appropriate
feeling of intimacy without hampering the director's
ability to tap a few of the special effects so popular
today - slow-motion has been added and Rosette has even
concocted a brief dream sequence.
What the movie presents through these unassuming means is a
smart and funny depiction of the book-selling scene in New
York's art-conscious Greenwich Village, portraying its
participants and showing what happens when the forces of
law and order - embodied by a local university and a
city-sponsored campaign to unclutter the sidewalks - decide
to expel them from their turf.
It's a small-scale film in every way, made by a former
member of the book-peddling trade who respects the privacy
of his "characters." At a time when many young directors
aspire to be the next Steven Spielberg, it's refreshing to
find one who names Walt Whitman and old westerns among his
influences. "BookWars" is as winning as it is modest.
Not rated; contains vulgar language.