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Telling it on the Mountain 

Flick Chick

As a New Year's resolution, you might consider a pledge to attend the Mountaintop Film Festival, actually taking place down below in the Mad River Valley. The event, January 15-22 at the Eclipse Theater in Waitsfield, will commemorate the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday -- hence the name, which borrows the word "mountain" from a seemingly prescient speech the inspirational civil-rights leader gave before his 1968 assassination.

Another reason for the fest: the 25th anniversary of Burlington's Peace and Justice Center, founded in January 1979. The activist organization is sponsoring this showcase, along with Human Rights Watch, to offer cinematic examinations of topical stories from around the world. Coordinator Kim-berly Ead suggests the eight-day movie extravaganza could also be a cure for cabin fever.

The tribute to King will include Four Little Girls, Spike Lee's 1997 look at the killing of black children four decades ago at a church in Birming-ham, Alabama.

Among the 28 documentaries on the schedule, Independent Media in a Time of War is planned as a highlight on January 16. The half-hour film zeroes in on a talk by New York City radio commentator Amy Goodman, who'll also be on hand to speak in person.

Some of the selections have been seen around the state in recent years: Unprecedented, about the presidential election debacle of 2000; The Trials of Henry Kissinger, which traces the Nixon administration national-security advisor's many global interventions; The Weather Underground, about the fabled 1960s radicals; and The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, the chronicle of a thwarted coup in Venezuela that may be up for an Oscar. The film, that is.

While none of the pictures are specifically about Iraq -- it may be too early in the occupation for that -- Ead sees an overarching theme. "Iraq is not the issue of the day," she says. "U.S. foreign policy is. And Iraq is a symptom of U.S. foreign policy."

Palestine Is Still the Issue, however. This will be a repeat screening of the British doc that dazzled audiences at October's Vermont International Film Festival by exploring, with absolute clarity, the long history of conflict in the Middle East.

A panel will discuss the nature of contemporary political aggression. Films such as Scenes From an Endless War and War Feels Like War are also likely to cover this subject.

"We wanted the festival to lead into the election season," Ead explains. "Hopefully, it can spark debate and a thought process to help people understand what's going on."

Claudia Becker, a Waitsfield teacher and mom, is the festival director. She came up with the original idea "to provide more opportunities for her community to learn about these things," Ead says.

The snow-country setting also aids the Peace and Justice Center's goal of reaching beyond the Queen City, she adds. "Hopefully, skiers will want to do something when they leave the slopes besides going out for a beer."

For more information, call 863-2345 or visit http://www.mountaintopfilmfestival. com.

Michael Eisner, long-time president and CEO of the Walt Disney Company, has a memoir due out in June that focuses on Vermont. Camp, as the coming-of-age book will be titled, is a narrative about his carefree childhood days at Keewaydin in Salisbury. The 61-year-old New York City native attended the historic wilderness camp on Lake Dunmore between the ages of 7 and 22 -- ultimately working there as a counselor.

Eisner reportedly made a pilgrimage to Keewaydin a few months ago with an official from Warner Books, which is expected to publish his tome in time for Father's Day 2004. The rustic camp specializes in canoeing, an activity that the Hollywood mogul is said to still particularly cherish.

Three years ago, in an interview with Susan Stamberg on National Public Radio, Eisner talked about his summers in the Green Mountain State as "the most important part of my background." He credits those experiences with shaping his "core values." His father was once a camper at Keewaydin; later on, so were Eisner's own children.

In 1986, he wrote then-governor Madeleine Kunin that his parents had lived about an hour to the southeast of Lake Dunmore since the early 1960s. "I also have a place in Saxton's River," Eisner continued, "and use any excuse to get back, including, hopefully, shooting a movie there."

We're still wishing upon a star for the happy camper from the House of Mouse to make that dream come true.

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