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The Weight of Evidence

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Death Do Us Part, a documentary-in-progress that was highlighted in a recent column, is linked to an evolving saga. Brattleboro filmmaker Morgan Faust has spent more than a year focusing on Tracy, an Ohio woman who married John Spirko despite his 1984 conviction in a murder case. On January 9, just 10 days away from execution, he was granted a reprieve -- the third such delay since September -- to allow six more months for DNA testing of evidence.

"Apparently, they found a hair on a piece of tape that had been used to wrap the body up in a tarp," Faust writes in an email. "I am off to interview someone at the Ohio Attorney General's office about the findings and the stay."

She continues to face a professional and personal conundrum not unlike that of Truman Capote, who was plagued by conflict after befriending the two jailed drifters responsible for a 1959 killing in Kansas. The celebrated author couldn't finish his book, In Cold Blood, until the death sentence was carried out, but legal appeals kept the condemned men from the gallows for several years.

Although Capote guiltily wished the ordeal would end, Faust is determined to avoid such a schism. Luckily, time appears to be on her side: The film still requires eight or nine months of editing.

"So, despite the effect on my nervous system, this reprieve won't affect the project too much," she says. "It does give me a few more avenues to explore with Tracy and John . . . and it certainly keeps the ending a mystery."

"We approach war through a

cultural rather than political perspective," Peacham filmmaker Jay Craven says of After the Fog. "It presents our own human history, instead of what politicians tell us."

His 74-minute documentary profiles 10 veterans from World War II, Vietnam and Iraq who discuss recruitment, training, combat experience and return to civilian life. One of them, Craftbury resident Curtis Whiteway, was a U.S. Army Ranger who survived the Battle of the Bulge, helped liberate concentration camps, and earned three Purple Hearts. He'll appear in person at screenings this weekend in the Northeast Kingdom. A statewide tour of the film hits Burlington on February 17 and 18.

Most of the talking heads are Vermonters, but Craven had trouble finding any local women who had served in Iraq. "I went to Wisconsin to interview Abbie Pickett," he explains. "As a soldier stationed near Mosul, she had to drive a 2500-gallon oil tanker across a desert to re-supply Humvees -- an incredibly dangerous job."

Given that Craven was often busy finishing Disappearances, a narrative feature, Fog became a collaborative effort. His son, Sascha Stanton-Craven, served as editor. Matt Sienkiewicz, a friend of Sascha's, shot three of the interviews. Robert Miller, a Brattleboro vet who fought in Italy and North Africa during World War II, is the producer. He proposed the idea for a doc about vets, which Craven suspects will remain relevant as events unfold in the Middle East.

Independent film or video artists, take note: The LEF Foundation's Moving Image Fund offers grants of $5000 for pre-production and up to $25,000 for production. The deadline is January 27, but applicants first might want to attend an information session Saturday, from 10-11:30 a.m., at the Tip Top Building in White River Junction. Visit http://www.lef-founda tion.org for more details.

Fans of Celtic lore who are tempted to see Tristan & Isolde, now playing in Burlington theaters, may be relieved that no contemporary pop tunes pump up the soundtrack of this lackluster epic. Instead, a few anachronistic Gregorian chants pepper an otherwise restrained score as young lovers defy the rigid traditions of their respective feuding medieval tribes.

In Cornwall, the benevolent King Marke (Rufus Sewell) has raised an orphaned Tristan (James Franco, a hunk with limited facial expressions). When a poisoned weapon leaves the lad comatose, it's difficult to tell the difference.

Across the sea in Ireland, Princess Isolde (Sophia Myles) winds up bringing Tristan back to life with herbs. They're soon ga-ga for each other, but she is forced to marry Marke.

Although Tristan & Isolde is a Camelot-like romantic triangle, the Hollywood promotional tagline evokes Shakespeare's doomed kids: "Before there was Romeo and Juliet . . ." Reinforcing this notion, the heartbroken title characters wonder if "there's a place for us," bringing to mind the song "Somewhere" from West Side Story. Maybe that's what the Gregorians are actually chanting.

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