This traveling festival of digital works runs Friday, December 3, through Sunday, December 5, at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago; tickets are $8 in advance, $10 at the door. For more information call 312-397-4010; a full schedule is online at

Judging from the three programs I was able to preview, digital video has gotten better since 1996, when Resfest was inaugurated. Glitzy effects still sometimes support neither a story nor any meaning, but they’re often put to expressive use.

Videos That Rock, an 85-minute program of 23 works, includes many strong music videos. The low-tech animated blob humans in Hannes Hayha’s I Love Death (music by Lodger) are appropriate to this charmingly simple parable of birth, marriage, and death. The surreal paintings of Hieronymus Bosch are animated into a compelling vision of hell in Syd Garon and Eric Henry’s Spokes on the Wheel of Torment (music by Buckethead), and in Brett Simon’s Belly Polar Bear’s song about a man giving up on life is illustrated by images of a face superimposed on abstract lines and a wet pane of glass. Kuntzel & Deygas’s Come Home Billy Bird uses animation, rapid cutting, and split-screen effects to convey the loss of autonomy in today’s air-travel system, accompanied by a Divine Comedy song about an international business traveler. (Sun 12/5, 3 PM)

In my favorite of the ten videos in Shorts #1 (86 min.), Pol Pot’s Birthday, actors portray the meager staff of the mass murderer and former dictator trying to throw him a birthday party. He complains that the cake is tiny, their applause seems unenthusiastic, and director Talmage Cooley’s slow pace and odd pauses make the event surpassingly strange. Fredrik Bond’s acidic The Mood depicts the way anger resonates: a supervisor and his wife yell at the protagonist, who then sees the consequences of other families’ fighting. Marc Craste’s JoJo in the Stars (2003) has a striking digitally created giant castle but an uninteresting story, and Peter Cornwell’s Ward 13 (2003) is cleverly animated with miniature figures that tell a trite tale of an attempt to escape from a hospital worthy of a horror movie. (Fri 12/3, 8 PM)

The seven videos in Shorts #3 (84 min.) include portraits of fascinating eccentrics. Cheryl Dunn’s Bicycle Gangs of New York depicts, among others, members of Black Label, who build and ride tall bikes, the group Manhattan Rickshaw, and a unicyclist moving along busy streets, but the irritating, repetitive techno sound track blurs the distinctions between them. The clueless narcissist in Brandon Dickerson’s quietly insightful Mel Howard: Professional Music Video Actor (2003) gripes that a camera passed him and focused on another actor (with a far more interesting face), then talks about his “legacy.” (Sun 12/5, 5 PM)