Tried something different last week and took in the regional stop of the Disposable Film Festival, sponsored by the tireless Suzz and Brett Cromwell of the Lowell Film Collaborative. It was presented at the Historical Park Visitor Center's theater right here on Market Street in Lowell, which proved the perfect setting for the event.
The Disposable Film Festival is a competition, based in San Francisco, that highlights films from around the world shot and edited on non-traditional media, such as iPhones, web cams, and scanners. This festival presentation showcased the competition winners from 2010. I came into this with low expectations. As a film school elitist, I was ready to be meh’d.
But these 26 films, ranging in runtimes from 20 seconds to about five minutes, showed a wide range of imagination, talent, passion, energy, and personality. Instead of acting as a restrictive hindrance, the chosen media unleashed creativity in impressive and sometimes mind-blowing ways.
Far from telling a traditional narrative, most of the films used stop motion, split screen, and music to create singular worlds and tell stories in ways that probably would not have worked otherwise. There’s a feel of outsider art to many of the pieces. The films act as reminders that the mobility and low price of technology has leveled the playing field for filmmakers and musician alike.
Each member of the night’s audience was encouraged to vote for their favorite film. Highlights from the festival include:
Domino. A series of still photos that animate a series of dominoes being pushed over by a camera as various illustrations pass by, one on each falling domino. The film gives the impression of a flipbook, with cars driving, dogs running after balls, and other active events. The thrill is wondering where each domino takes you. The soundtrack includes the rhythmic click of dominoes falling, adding to the visual trick:
Domino from Disposable Film Festival on Vimeo.
Stop Motion Wolf and Pig. Just what it sounds like, but oh so much more. Stop motion that moves as much or more than a fluid, continuous shot. We follow the adventures of a man in a wolf suit lazily pursuing a paper mâché pig. The adventure is shot and presented as a series of still pictures. But these pictures are laid out across floors, tables, sinks, the whole of an apartment as an intricate chase sequence. A must-watch:
オオカミとブタ (Stop Motion with Wolf and Pig) from Disposable Film Festival on Vimeo.
Sour. Playful, energetic, and a wonder of organization, planning, and production management. A band starts playing a song, and within seconds the screen splits and splits again showing webcam and digital camera shots of listeners grooving to the song. This tumbles into variations of split screen interaction which grow and become more impressive. It's a celebration of music and sharing and happiness. Corny as that sounds, that's the emotion it evoked:
Sour from Disposable Film Festival on Vimeo.
The Lost Tribes of New York City employs audio interviews of New York denizens played over city locations where some object, like a suitcase or a newspaper dispenser, are animated into faces that appear to be doing the talking. It cribs from Aardman's Creature Comforts, but the soundtrack is great and the animated objects give a playful, entertaining face to the voices:
The Lost Tribes of New York City from Disposable Film Festival on Vimeo.
My favorite film of the night was Lucia. It proved how versatile and inventive the medium can be, mixing lyricism with what I can only describe as a disturbing diorama that grows, flexes, and shifts underfoot. Nothing is as it seems. Plus I had no idea where it was headed or how it would end. It's quick, and there are subtitles, so it warrants multiple viewing:
Lucia from Disposable Film Festival on Vimeo.
Check out all the other disposable films on Vimeo.
A big shout-out to the Lowell Film Collaborative for providing Lowell denizens unique and inspired film choices screened in various locations around the city. Keep up the great work guys.