BookWars (NR) 3 Stars out of 4 Star Star Star

By Chris Dickerson
Daily Mail Movie Reviewer


Granted, it doesn't seem that the story of a group of people who sell books on the streets of New York City would make for much of a film.

"BookWars" proves that wrong. In the process, it also proves that documentaries don't have to be mind-numbing exercises in pomposity.

Jason Rosette wrote, directed, produced, edited and stars in this 77-minute glimpse into the sometimes fascinating world of street booksellers.

The first part of the movie introduces viewers to a colorful group of men Rosette meets when he begins selling his books. Among them are Peter Whitney, an artist and insect/animal expert; Slick Rick, a magician and wiseguy; Marvin, a recovering alcoholic; and Polish Joe, the "smoker of 100 cigarettes."

In addition to meeting a few of the regular customers, the viewer also is taken on searches for books, which are portrayed as treasured works of art. Rosette's comparison of book selling to drug dealing is amazingly accurate in many ways.

The second half of the movie deals with the booksellers' struggles with city officials. Under Mayor Rudolph Guiliani's "Quality of Life" push to clean up the city, NYPD officers begin being more strict and try to get the sellers' tables off the street corners.

While enforcing the city's new rules, the cops can't help but browse through the books. Nearby New York University also tries to push the sellers away.

Sometimes Rosette, who also serves as narrator (sounding eerily like William Shatner at times), waxes a little too poetic about the life of a bookseller and about books in general. But that comes from his love of the entire scene, so at least it's sincere.

The documentary will be shown at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 2 at the Charleston House Holiday Inn as part of the West Virginia Library Association's Convention 2000. The showing is free and open to the public. The showing is co-sponsored by the West Virginia International Film Festival and the West Virginia Library Association.

The Fall Film Festival opens Nov. 3 at the West Virginia State College Capital Theater on Summers Street. Check www.wviff.org for a schedule of films. (The official BookWars site is at www.camerado.com.)