Of the entrants in this year’s Onion City Film Festival, three of the best are idiosyncratic portraits of places. Jules Engel’s Toy Shop is five-minutes of charming animation in which toys and figures come to life, not in the conventional way but as abstract moving patterns. The film’s rhythm is like a merry-go-round’s; this is a toy shop of the imagination. James Schneider sets his ten-minute film Oasis in Green Valley, a new gated community near Las Vegas, presenting it as a patterned world that seems as artificial as that of Toy Shop. Brightly colored realist bronze statues by J. Seward Johnson Jr. dot the townscape, their lifelike presences almost surreal and often more vivid than the few passersby we see. The cluttered colors of the contemporary locales of these two films dramatically contrast with the images in The Idea of North, Rebecca Baron’s 15-minute black-and-white evocation of a failed 1987 arctic expedition. Focusing on a few photos shot by the crew of a downed balloon before their demise, Baron intercuts shots of a mirror reflecting the sun and of hands scraping at snow. These and other present-day images, more artfully composed than the 1897 photographs, movingly represent her–and our–inevitably incomplete understanding of the past through the diary excerpts we hear and see. Oasis and The Idea of North will be shown both Friday and Saturday. Also on Friday are films by Brady Lewis, Caroline Weihs, Barbara Grap, Michael Domes, Barbara Klutinis, Matt Heffelfinger, Richard Foley, Hellin Kay, Gustav Deutsch, Kurt Kren, Stephanie Barber, and John Turk. Saturday’s program includes Toy Shop and films by Brady Lewis, David Gatten, Jason Juravic, Natasha Uppal, Elisa Blatteis, Mark Street, Bea Bellino, and Regina Hšllbacher. Kino-Eye Cinema at Chicago Filmmakers, 1543 W. Division, Friday and Saturday, May 3 and 4, 8:00; 384-5533. –Fred Camper