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On the Waterfront 

Flick Chick

Big news for cineastes: The Vermont International Film Festival, October 11 through 15, is getting a new Burlington venue. The Waterfront Theatre is slated to become the site for documentaries, replacing City Hall Auditorium and the Firehouse Center for the Visual Arts. The annual event's 35mm celluloid features will continue at the Roxy.

These changes are part of a sponsorship arrangement with the Main Street Landing Company, which has constructed a 110,000-square-foot commercial and cultural complex on some of the city's most scenic real estate.

"We really want to support independent film," says Melinda Moulton, one of two "sustainable developers" behind what's called Lake and College Project. "This provides the festival with all sorts of nooks and crannies."

The extravaganza will present its socially conscious fare in a 250-seat room with a 22-foot screen and Dolby Surround Sound, as well as a 150-seat black-box performance space. Audiences are likely to benefit from the neighborhood's many parking options. And the Colin Lindberg-designed complex is eco-friendly, underscoring one of the topical fest's key themes.

VIFF has been headquartered in Main Street Landing's historic Union Station building since 1994, in what Moulton describes as "an enduring, passionate relationship" for her enterprise.

"This is really exciting for us," says filmmaker Deb Ellis, a festival board member. "There'll be places to hold conversations, offer hospitality, sell tickets, and just hang out."

Ah, yes -- all those nooks and crannies.

July 15 is the deadline for motion-picture submissions from Vermonters. Call 660-2600 or check out http://www.vtiff.com for details.

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Waterfront Park will accommodate a free world premiere of Phish Live in Brooklyn, which chronicles the jam band's first stop on a 2004 goodbye tour. The 221-minute doc, directed and edited by Eli Tishberg, begins at 8:15 p.m. on Sunday. This Queen City launch precedes the nationwide July 11 release of a two-DVD set and a separate three-CD audio soundtrack.

Despite a downpour, the New York borough's mid-June concert drew 16,000 Phishheads to Coney Island, while another 30,000 watched a simulcast from the dry comfort of nearly 50 movie theaters around the country. The film's debut, on a two-story inflatable screen, will be a sort of rain-or-shine affair. Better pack some waterproof gear, because the show must go on if there's merely a drizzle. In case of a deluge, however, fans should head for Higher Ground. The club in South Burlington, that is.

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Locals hoping to transcend fickle weather can turn on and tune in. Vermont Public Television's "Reel Independents" is back for a sixth season beginning this weekend. The 10 p.m. Friday night series focuses on the state's auteurs. Host Ken Peck interviews them after a look at their work, which reflects many artistic visions of varying lengths.

The program, running from July 7 through September, starts with three filmmakers: several "Dogsharks" animations by writer-illustrator Robert Wurzburg of St. Johnsbury; "I Was a Dancer" by Jason Whiton of Putney; and "The World Outside" by Josh Lind of Rutland.

Wurzburg has a "Dogsharks" cottage industry of books, puppets and merchandising built around creatures that look part canine and part cartilaginous fish. "The films are playfully educational pieces for children, each about 2 minutes long," Peck explains.

Whiton wasn't able to appear in person, but his "Dancer" speaks for him, chronicling "a beautifully choreographed, ritualistic pageant in Japan," Peck notes. "It's women in kimonos, shot mostly in slow-motion, with the banging of a drum as accompaniment."

Lind's "Outside" depicts two warring factories, one red and the other blue, with employees ensnared by the conflict. His inspiration is rooted in America's electoral divide. "In terms of production values, this is magnificently stylized and extremely creative on the level of a Willy Wonka," Peck suggests.

The July 14 selection, "Drive" by Burlington resident Art Bell, is "a fascinating montage of vehicles in motion, even a Mennonite wagon," Peck says. "He uses ambient music and JFK's inaugural address, a powerful speech about freedom and liberty. Art is a cinematic poet who's not interested in spelling out the thises and thats."

On tap for July 21, "Radically Simple" by Jan Cannon of Charlotte profiles renowned environmentalist and Dartmouth College sustainability director Jim Merkel.

Michael Fisher's "Stick Season" and "Vampire's Pose" - supernatural narratives with agricultural settings - will wrap up the first segment of "Reel Independents" on July 28. After a VPT fundraising break, the series comes back in mid-August.

By then, perhaps summer sunshine will be more reliable.

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Susan Green

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