Saturday, August 12, 2006

RURAL ROUTE. A couple of weekends ago, my old schoolmate Teresa Davidson flew in from Austin for a screening of Dressed to Kill--Women Who Hunt. She had worked on the film as assistant director to Carol Wagner.

The movie, a documentary about women hunters in Texas, was half of an excellent double bill at the Rural Route Film Festival, which highlights "works that deal with rural people and places." Even though the documentary Green Streets (about community gardens in the Big Apple) was part of the festival, I still felt transported far from the city by Dressed to Kill and Muskrat Lovely, its partner on the program.

Dressed to Kill looks at women involved in several different types of hunting in the Lone Star State. As someone with an interest in archery but no experience with firearms and hunting, I was struck by how much of the hunting consisted of live target-shooting--not really tracking prey but positioning oneself at a pre-determined vantage point and then going for the perfect kill shot, one that drops an animal with minimal muss and fuss (and agony for the target). I also noted how eating the kill seemed like an almost religious ritual for many of the women.

Directed and produced by Amy Nicholson, Muskrat Lovely documents a ritual in another part of the country: the annual beauty pageant/muskrat skinning competition in Dorchester County, Maryland, home of the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. As a fan of talent shows and movies such as Spellbound, Mad Hot Ballroom, and Wordplay, I couldn't help but get caught up in the pageant. And I was fascinated to learn of the muskrat culture in the Chesapeake Bay region--not just the trapping and the skinning but the cooking, too! Interested? Here's the Everything Muskrat website, which includes recipes.

Dressed to Kill plays the Dallas Video Festival on Sunday. I understand that Muskrat Lovely will play the Austin Film Festival and the Hamptons Film Festival in October and also appear on PBS on Halloween, and that the Rural Route Festival will probably go on tour as it has in the past.

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