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ENTERTAINMENT NEWS : A Film Portrait of a Father : The documentary on the artist could mean an Oscar for a CalArts graduate.

March 12, 1993|MICHAEL ARKUSH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Almost a quarter-century after her father died of cancer, a CalArts graduate has written and directed an animated documentary about him, giving her new insights into a past hidden too long.

It may also win her an Oscar.

"This helped me close the book," said Joyce Borenstein, whose film, "The Colours of My Father: A Portrait of Sam Borenstein," has been nominated this year for an Academy Award in the Best Short Documentary category. Sam Borenstein was a professional painter who died in 1969. His works were displayed at galleries in Canada.

"I've wanted to do this since 1984, but I was rejected by producers until 1988. Then it took two-and-a-half years to raise the money . . . . It was a very intense experience, and it was great learning things that I never knew about him."

In the 30-minute film, Borenstein, who graduated from CalArts in 1974, included interviews with family members, photographs and samples of her father's work. His paintings focused, she said, on "expressionist landscape." The film was produced by Richard Elson and Sally Bochner.

The documentary has won awards at festivals in Canada, Switzerland and Chicago. Borenstein hopes the film, which has been played on PBS stations in small markets across the country, will get wider distribution from the Oscar nomination.

By rediscovering her father, however, she found not every truth was flattering.

"I saw all these photos with women," said Borenstein, who lives in Montreal, but will attend the Academy Awards ceremony. "He must have dated a lot before he got married."

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Out of six categories in the recently completed semifinals of the fifth annual Music Center Spotlight Awards, three will feature San Fernando Valley students in the final round April 8 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The awards are for 14- to 18-year-old students in Southern California.

Besides Natalie Willes, who captured one of the two finalists positions in jazz dance, the others are Farah Alvin in pop vocals, and Doron Orenstein in jazz instrumental music. All are guaranteed at least $2,500 in next month's event--$5,000 if they finish first.

Alvin, 16, started singing lessons at 8, but it was already her second passion. Her first--ice-skating--had become too intense.

"It became too much of a competition," said Alvin, a junior at Chatsworth High School, "and what I always liked was the performance part."

At the finals, she plans to sing "Johnny One Note" from the 1937 Rodgers and Hart musical "Babes in Arms."

"It's one of the first songs I learned how to sing," she said.

Orenstein, 19, almost didn't become a musician.

"I was going to take French as an elective in junior high," said Orenstein, a senior at Agoura High School, "but a friend asked me to join the band instead."

He instantly became infatuated with the saxophone, and has been taking lessons ever since. At the finals, he will perform two pieces--"Tenor Madness" by Sonny Rollins and "There Will Never Be Another You" by Harry Warren.

A NEW HOME: First, the Little Nashville in Van Nuys. Then, the Palomino in North Hollywood.

And now, the Barn Dance, a weekly concert of rockabilly and old-fashioned country-Western music that celebrated its fifth anniversary in January, has moved to its third home--In Cahoots in Glendale. It's also switched from Tuesday to Monday nights.

But Ronnie Mack, its host from the beginning, isn't complaining. Mack said the show has captured new fans who had assumed country-Western music only revolved around current stars such as Garth Brooks and Billy Ray Cyrus.

"They have discovered rockabilly," Mack said. "We still get our regulars from the Palomino, and now we have some converts."

Mack said he felt the Palomino show had stopped growing in recent months.

"The club has become stagnant, and I felt that as long as it was stagnant, my show would be the same," he said. "I felt it was time to take it to the next level."

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