Thursday, 15 January 2009

onedotzero: adventures in motion

This festival was probably the least interesting socially, as it took place in my native London. So not really that much of an adventure: between screenings all I could really do was sit around waiting, the South Bank being far too expensive for me to be able to actually do anything. The fact that I didn't get any sort of concession for being a film maker apart from for the screening my film was in also made it somewhat less fun compared to say, Filmstock, which let its film-makers get into pretty much EVERYTHING free. onedotzero had the most consistently high-quality selection of all the festivals I went to, but somehow this actually makes it seem worse in retrospect, since everything just blends together and its hard to remember the highlights. There were highlights, however, (and low-points, too, but I'll get to those).

There were screenings over three days, grouped thematically or in other specific ways. I'll just pick out the most notable films that I can remember from each one, of course. I'm lazy tonight so you'll only get thumbnails and links for the REAL highlights. I'll also list them in ascending order of memorability, cleverly creating a build-up of tension resulting in a climax.

New British Talent 08:
This featured, suprisingly, films made in Britain. I've got "cheat neutral", "Procrastination", "big boy_74", and "operator" written on my program in massive fat purple marker, so I guess they must've caught my eye at the time. I can remember three of these: cheat neutral, a mockumentary making fun of the idea of carbon offsetting by comparing it to offsetting cheating in a relationship by paying other couples not to (yeah...); big boy_74 sees a man about to commit suicide in his car accidentally involved in a sexy rendezvous arranged online, was a little predictable but charming; and operator, which I'd seen before online, I think, in which a man phones up God and asks him why he can't lick his elbow.

I remember this being fairly good, but to be honest I can't remember any of it. Alex Robinson, a mate of mine at Kingston had his film London showing alongside mine. However, the daft cunt in charge of editing fucked mine up, and edited together the three parts I had to provide it in without removing the overlap. I almost walked out, and certainly gave the first staff member I could reasonably hold responsible a very thorough talking to. Oh well.

j-star 08:
I remember thinking this was pretty interesting, too, but I can't remember anything from it either. I'm really on form today, aren't I? Oh, there were three episodes of the profoundly stupid Usavich. Make of it what you will.

studio aka: a retrospective:
Dedicated entirely to the work of London aka. Most notably there was a showing of Mark Craste's new short Varmints, based on the illustrated book. It was okay. Looks very nice, though its environmental message was a bit hamfisted.

wow + flutter 08:
The theme of this was supposedly experimental work (if I understand the ridiculously flowery blurb correctly), but most of the British animation industry seems to be trying to be "experimental", so I don't see what good dedicated a whole section to it does. Oh well.
I say that, but actually, looking through the program, some of this stuff really WAS experimental, even by British standards.
Actually, when I say "some of this stuff", I really just mean David O'Reilly's WOFL 2106. I was going to skim over it as a mere curiosity, but in searching for it to link to I found his site and realised he's actually genuinely an insane genius. Seriously, he made a music video consisting almost entirely of video compression artefacts. And the absolute most ugly, jarring, visually offensive piece of moving image ever made. And all the props and illustrations for Son of Rambow, apparently. But seriously, fuck anything you've ever seen that you think is experimental. This man truly doesn't give a fuck what you or I or anyone thinks. And that makes him awesome. I personally think that alot of people that DO manage to be experimental don't seem to me to communicate any honest intent in their work, making it just difficult for the sake of being difficult and leaving me cold. But I find David's stuff incredibly compelling. He's apparently very successful, but unlike alot of genuinely original and successful people, the superficialities of his "style" haven't caught on, become mainstream, and subsequently been ruined. I hope it stays that way.

My personal highlight of the festival. This was a triple-feature, with the theme being fairly self-evident, I think.

Michel Gondry directed Interior Design, in which the female half of a couple staying with friends until they can find a flat feels useless, until she turns into a chair and is able to be useful to some random guy who picks her up.

Leos Carax directed Merde, about an insane, red-bearded, green-suited troll of a man living in Tokyo's sewer system, who occasionally comes out and scares people, then one day throws some grenades into some crowds, is arrested, and turns out to speak a language only spoken by two other people in the whole world, one of whom looks like his mirror image and defends him in court.

Bong Joon-Ho directed Shaking Tokyo, about a hikikomori (wowee!) who falls in love with a pizza delivery girl and forces himself to leave (this one sounds really mundane and obvious but it's alot cleverer than this synopsis implies). All three were very interesting and compelling.

As well as Alex Robinson and London, Danny Boyle who I also studied with was there with a special preview of Slumdog Millionaire. It was very well received, and I gather it's been doing very well lately, so congrats to him.

Okay that was a lie, it's not that Danny Boyle, but I couldn't resist, even though that whole palaver has actually long since blown over. He was actually there with The Grand Old Duke of York (Danny where the hell's your website I want to link to you), in the "Top Draw" section, which I didn't see but which he said featured far too much rotoscoping. Matt Layzell joined us for merry drinks afterwards. It was a treat.

Apologies for the pared down reviews and sullen-to-surly tone of this particular post (I don't actually mean any offense to any experimental artists you may happen to like, either). I'm working tomorrow and it's past my bedtime. Hopefully I didn't offend the two people who (maybe) read this blog (hi, "Catherine"!)I think the next festival is encounters, which left somewhat more of an impression.

Friday, 9 January 2009

Film Stock 2008 (better late than never!)

Set in the sprawling dystopian metropolis of Luton, this wasn't such a big treck as some of the other festivals I paid a visit to during the latter part of the year, at least geographically. In filmwatching terms, though, it was to prove a marathon: two-and-a-half near-solid days of short films, with plenty of drinking in the interims. It was also the most enjoyable event I went to.

I arrived a little confused, and spent a few minutes finding the cryptically named "Hat Factory", which eventually turned out to be right next to the station. I met Neil, one of the two organisers of the festival (the other being Justin), Alex Barrett, a fellow film-maker who I would end up tagging along with for the rest of my stay, and a few other very welcoming and friendly people. Neil showed me to the pub he'd organised a room for me at (a rather nice place, actually, which somehow maintained complete silence in the rooms despite the pub itself being very noisy every night), then came back to begin the film-watching.

The Hat Factory
The Hat Factory

As I hadn't come on the Thursday, and thus couldn't see Choke, based on Chuck Palahniuk's novel, the first thing I saw was Fear Strikes Out, based on the true story of Jimmy Piersall's battle with being-bloody-crazy to become a big baseball star (which he eventually did). It was pretty good all-round.

This was followed by the first round of short films, which is what the entireity of the rest of my weekend's stay would consist of. As there were so many, I will try to restrict myself to one from each session of about 9 films.

Die Seilbahn (Claudius Gentinetta): A rather lovely animated film about an old man travelling up a mountain in a cable car, but his sneezing shakes it to pieces and he tries to hold it together with masking tape.Die SeilbahnMy Blue Heaven (Yee-Wei Chai): A young boy living with an abusive father watches one of his porn videos one day. Hilarity ensues. Only not, in my opinion. It was beautifully graded but horribly forced and unfunny, with the worst child-actor I've ever seen. Ever. It won an audience award, though, apparently, so maybe I was missing something.
My Blue HeavenPeople Were There (Antoine Bourges): The film-maker filmed some random footage in the city while he and his friend talked about nothing in particular, then did some clever things with text in After Effects on top of the footage. It sounds super-lame, and sadly I have neither a link nor an image, but trust me, it was pretty cool.
Solitude (Mehrdad Sheikhan): Animated film about, um, loneliness (sidenote: along with my film and a few others this seemed to be a bit of a recurring theme here). Specifically, a sad rock-man living on a big rock cube floating in the sky. Far too long, and a bit dodgy in places, but had some very nice moments.SolitudeE Finita La Commedia (Jean-Julien Collette): A father and son sit in a car, discussing life, sex, and "the mother". One of my favourite films of the festival, the dialogue and the whole thing in general were just very well done.
E Finita La CommediaArcadia (Adam Butcher): Very strange: an office-worker's computer starts talking back, while one of his co-workers says he's writing a second bible. Used actors shot against blue-screen on top of tiny built cardboard sets. The blue-screen was actually pretty badly done but it was such a profoundly weird film that it kind of added to it.
Also, judging by this, I think Adam Butcher is clearly some kind of insane genius.
Side Effect (Jae-ha Myung): A woman has to live with the consequences of her son being a criminal, specifically the abuse it gets her from her neighbours. Another one of my favourites, with some incredibly powerful acting. No picture here, either, sorry.
Tony Zoreil (Valentin Potier): A young man born to a family of big-eared people, on having to deal with how it affects his life. Poignant, charming, and well put-together.Tony ZoreilDucks (Adam Young): Horny old people playin'. Sweet and rather interesting.
Sick (Mike Rymer): "As Brian's story slides backwards through 15 years of therapy, his daughter's crashes forwards." That's taken from the blurb in the Filmstock brochure, as I can't really sum it up any better myself, mostly because I can't remember many specifics. I've got "Great" written next to it in my Filmstock brochure, though, so I'd better mention it.
SickCheeese (Huseyin Tabak): "A Kurdish family waits for help from American troops during the Iraq war, in the basement of their collapsed house." Poignant and sensitive, the title comes from the very clever and effective device of occasional photographs, taken by the son on a polaroid camera, which remain static on the screen for several seconds at the moment of their taking, with the dialogue continuing over the top. Another of my very favourites. I think my film came immediately after this, which was a bit intimidating, to say the least.
Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (David Ross): A ridiculously abstract film, the blurb calls it "A three-part pan-dimensional journey", but to be honest you could probably call it just about anything. A bit like watching screen-savers for 10 minutes, but it was kind of worth seeing in a theatre, it was just such a strange experience. You can check out the Youtube link (first of three parts) but it's really not the same as watching it in a dark theatre...half delirious after watching probably about a hundred short films over the course of a three-day-weekend. Apparently I wasn't the only one who (sort of) enjoyed it as it won an audience award.
Eine Kleine NachtmusikLiminal (Stephen Keep Mills): Two naked girls arguing over the sort of thing only girls would argue about, a sweater that, to quote the blurb again, "Ina thinks makes her look good and Joy thinks makes her look too good." Once I was able to stop staring at their vaginas it was actually very interesting and engaging.
Lullaby (Kevin Markwick): A woman who lost a child years ago goes to the special place she always visits on his birthday to finally leave his memory behind. Very touching, with effective, understated acting. A favourite.
That was alot of films, wasn't it? There were a good few I had to omit but that's as many as I can really be bothered covering. The quality overall was up-and-down, but as I've said this was my favourite festival, chiefly because everyone was so friendly and welcoming. It really helped that I turned up at a quiet period when everybody was just sitting around chatting, but that would've meant little without a generally welcoming crowd. Dinner and drinks on the last night (for me: the festival itself went on well past just the Short Film Weekend) was a real treat, so thanks to Neil and Justin the organisers, Alex Barrett and Rahim Moledina for putting up with my following them around the whole time, and everybody else I spoke to and who was nice to me. I'll have to go back next year, whether or not I have a film of my own to enter.

Oh, actually, one more thing, they do something rather lovely and get people to write short comments on films they liked, and email you the better ones afterwards. I got some lovely responses, my favourite being "'Who amongst us hasn’t felt like locking ourselves in a room to get away from the outside world? And how great was Jonathan’s animation? The expression on the main character’s face was worth the price of my stockholders pass.' – Bill Greenberg". Somebody else also told me at the time that the characters was pure "Eeyore", which made me very happy indeed. So thanks also to Bill Greenberg and the other nice man whose name I sadly now forget.