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Prepare to be challenged 

His intelligent gray eyes belie his perpetual interrupted-nap exterior. He sounds like a cross between Governor Schwarzenegger and Count von Count from Sesame Street, only with a whistling speech impediment that might make a rational person shy away from excessive public speaking. But SlavojZizek is "an academic rock star," an honest-to-goodness philosopher in an age where an abundance of brains can be more liability than commodity. Director Astra Taylor's documentary Zizek!is a shameless love letter to the charismatic Slovene theorist, although Zizek!'s pleasure potential will probably be in direct correlation to the moviegoing audience's capacity for abstract thought.

An acolyte of French Freudian Jacques Lacan and proponent of socialism, Zizekis, to put it bluntly, brilliant. He has written books on subjects as diverse as Hitchcock and Lenin, and while he has attained a surprising level of popularity, he's not terribly comfortable with it ("I like philosophy as an anonymous job"). Taylor's camera follows Zizek as he delivers lectures to packed houses in far-flung locales like Buenos Aires and New York City, shops for DVDs (Zizek's favorite American film is, not surprisingly, The Fountainhead), and gives a tour of his cozy apartment in Ljubljana where his clothes are stacked neatly in the kitchen cupboards.

Zizek's mind works faster than his mouth, lending him a charmingly twitchy demeanor that seems to make him accessible despite astounding gifts that could easily alienate him from his fellow humans. And though I was only able to process about a third of Zizek's ideas (I'm totally lying --- it was more like an eighth), it's refreshing to come across someone so unapologetically intellectual. Prepare to be both challenged and humbled, and maybe even entertained.

Every November in Alberta, Canada, The Banff Mountain Film Festival presents the world's best movies on mountain subjects, including sports, culture, and the environment. Selections from the festival will make their way this year to around 25 countries, and on Tuesday, February 28, and Wednesday, March 1, the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour stops at the Rochester Institute of Technology's Ingle Auditorium.

The proverbial curtain rises both evenings at 7 p.m. with a different lineup of films scheduled for each night. Tuesday's program includes short films on skydiving in Japan, kayaking in the Sierra Nevadas, fly-fishing in Colorado, and skiing in Nepal. The movies scheduled for Wednesday highlight hockey in the Himalayas, crack-climbing addicts in Utah, and a 79-year-old paraglider from Poland.

Off Road to Athens, a documentary that follows eight cyclists hoping to make the 2004 US Olympic mountain biking team, is the centerpiece of the Rochester edition of the film festival. Director Jason Berry, a Rochester native and RIT graduate, will be on hand Wednesday evening to introduce his film, which enjoyed a sold-out stop at the Little Theatre last May.

The Banff Mountain Film Festival is being brought to Rochester by RIT'sInteractive Adventures Program, which dares participants to conquer their "perceived limitations" through participation in adventures. General admission tickets are $8 and available at RIT's Gordon Field House or by calling 475-4121. Interpreters for the hearing-impaired will be on hand at both shows.

Zizek! (NR), directed by Astra Taylor, is showing Friday, February 24, at the George Eastman House's Dryden Theatre, 8 p.m. | Get complete information about The Banff Mountain Film Festival by clicking "What's New" at


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