Two days to do it. A frenzied 48.

The 48 Hour Film Project makes its inaugural visit to Charleston the weekend of Aug. 17-19, inviting competitors to see who can make the most intriguing movie in two breakneck days of production and compete with global colleagues for the title of "Best 48 Hour Film of 2007."

The project is being produced locally by Justin Nathanson, founder of the CharlestonDOC Film Festival and director of the documentary feature "Bin Yah."

Subject matter is up to the filmmaker, but each team must select the genre for its movie in a random drawing 15 minutes before the start of the competition.

There are 15 categories for 2007, including horror, romance, science fiction, drama, superhero and the rather curious dual grouping of musical/western. Also, teams are given a character, a prop and a line of dialogue that must appear in their picture.

Twelve to 15 filmmaking teams will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis, says Nathanson. Once the initial registration is full, the remaining aspirants will be placed on a waiting list. So if a registered team (average, 15 people) drops out, teams on the waiting list will be included in the project.

On Aug. 22, the final cuts of movies will be screened at Physician's Auditorium. The winning films go on to the project's National Screening and Awards Weekend.

The registration fee is $125 per team. For more details, go online at 48hourfilm.com or info@48hourfilm.com.

Established in 2001 in Washington, D.C., the 48 Hour Film Project's stated mission is to advance filmmaking and promote filmmakers: "Through its festival competition, the project encourages filmmakers and would-be filmmakers to get out there and make movies, say organizers. The tight deadline of 48 hours puts the focus squarely on the filmmakers, emphasizing creativity and teamwork skills. While the time limit places an unusual restriction on the filmmakers, it is also liberating by putting an emphasis on doing instead of talking."

Six years, 36 cities and more than 100 national and international competitions later, the group has proved entertaining movies can be made in a couple of days. Can you?

Enviro-cinema

Unity Church of Charleston opens an evening documentary film series on critical environmental issues beginning Friday with a reprise screening of "An Inconvenient Truth," the much-debated Oscar-winning documentary featuring Al Gore.

All showings are at 7 p.m. A $5 donation is suggested.

"An Inconvenient Truth" will be followed Aug. 3 by "Kilowatt Ours," independent filmmaker Jeff Barrie's movie on energy awareness; Aug. 18 by "The Future of Food," Deborah Koons Garcia's account of the changes occurring in the farm fields and on the dinner tables of America; and Aug. 31 by "Green: The New Red, White and Blue," a look at a projected "world energy revolution in the making" featuring commentary by New York Times foreign affairs columnist Thomas L. Friedman. For more information, call 566-0600.

Larcenous 'Lucky'

Mobster Lucky Luciano, last embodied by ex-rock impresario Bill Graham in "Bugsy" (1991), returns to the movies courtesy of former record promoter Joseph Isgro, a producer who broke into the business 15 years ago with "Hoffa" (1992), a biopic of the union leader and suspected Mafia front, Jimmy Hoffa.

What you may not know is that Isgro, 60, was once accused of being a Mob "soldier" by the FBI — allegedly, one of the members of the Gambino crime family — and that even as "Hoffa" was in production, he was under indictment on racketeering charges.

The U.S. Attorney's office spent 10 years and $10 million trying to convict Isgro, but the case was thrown out because of government misconduct. One year later, Isgro was arrested for loan sharking in Beverly Hills. Though no Mob ties were proved, he was sentenced to 50 months in prison in 2000 for extortion and loan sharking.

Luciano, by contrast, was Big Timer who got out of hot water thanks to a Presidential pardon.

This time Luciano (1917-1962) is the centerpiece of the picture, aptly titled "Luciano," rather than a fringe player. What Bugsy Siegel was to the history of Las Vegas, Luciano, along with childhood chum Meyer Lansky, was to the larger lore of the Mafia.

The real mover and shaker of modern organized crime, Luciano was a Sicilian immigrant who rose to power in the 1920s and transformed La Cosa Nostra into a business enterprise based on legit economic principles. He was ruthless in ordering gangland killings to consolidated warring factions, while ensuring the rackets remained a going concern via money laundering.

So powerful was he that during World War II, even while serving a 30- to 50-year sentence in stir, Luciano and his union underlings were recruited by FDR's people for the war effort, asking him to pull strings to secure the ports against sabotage. He succeeded, earning a presidential pardon in the process. The Mob was nothing if not patriotic, after a fashion, since their manipulation of the consumer-driven economy of America had made them rich.

Word has it that Isgro is trying to lure several cast members from "The Sopranos" into the fold, but no official announcements have been made to date.

'Once' around

A young Czech immigrant woman (Marketa Irglova) is hawking newspapers on a Dublin street when she chances to hear a man (Glen Hansard) singing a Van Morrison ballad. She is enchanted. The same fellow, as poor as he is, sings his own compositions at night. Before long, they are hanging out together in a music store, and she starts to play piano accompaniment to one of his songs.

So begins director John Carney's "Once," a (love) story of youth and dreams that is an unexpected blend of fairy tale fancy and bedrock slice-of-life. Hansard, real-life leader of the band The Frames, also informs the picture with his thorough knowledge of the recording session.

It's a fresh, bittersweet film worth seeking out.

Bits and Pieces

French writer-director Patrice Leconte returns with the serio-comic "My Best Friend," starring Daniel Auteuil and Dany Boon. The two actors also star in "The Valet," slated to open here July 27. ... Director Danny ("Trainspotting") Boyle's "Sunshine" grew out of a life-long fascination with science fiction, but it's not his first attempt. In 2002, he directed Kenneth Branagh, Courteney Cox and Heather Graham in a segment of a never-finished anthology called "Alien Love Triangle," which he now considers on the job training..