Friday, August 04, 2006

The 13th Annual Independant Filmakers Co-Operative of Ottawa Gala Premiere (August 3, 2006)

Lucky 13! This is my first time visiting the sweet Gala, and it's too bad it was a school night, because I sure would have liked to have gone to the after-party, given that the admission was included in the price of the ticket.

Let me tell you a bit about the show for those of you big city folk who might not know about this great and wonderful event. Ottawa, the nation's capital, has a film night for the independent filmmakers that make up their co-op. For more information, as well as a few archived films, simply visit the IFCO website.

The first title was the tree-mendous 5-minute Land Of The Pines directed by Dan Sokolowski, a humorous look at Canadiana as seen through the study of The Pine. By immersing ourselves in pine trees, streets named pine, towns named pine, and pines named pine, not only are we amused with the narration, but the late 70s Hinterland Who's Who look and feel of the whole film added a comical nostalgia as it intermingled with the beauty of poetic narrative and stop-motion art in oils and coloured sands. Like a funny Haiku for the Canadian mind, it was certainly one of my favorites.

Kelly Egan made two films that were featured in this gala. The first was transparent "c" (get it?), a 3-minute 'formal investigation of the structure of language and meaning'... Look, after participating in the Avant-garde Blog-A-Thon, I realized how much I appreciate the genre, but this film showcasing 20 foot tall letters with screeching sounds might want to stay in the big festivals, where people who wear the Emperor's Clothes might get away with saying how great this is. While I was trying to get into it, the person to my left was giggling hysterically and my girl was saying "God, that's annoying".

Her second film, c: won eyed jail, redeemed the filmmaker in my eyes. It was similar in its sounds and rapid-fire visual, though this 5-minute mesh of still negatives and found motion picture film seemed far more polished and professional, far more interesting and dynamic. I really liked it, though I had to rub my eyes near the end, the effect might have just lasted a little too long.

ELECTRUM by Caleb Lauer and Jeff Parenteau was 23 minute of cinematic experimentation. The story itself revolves around a man who upsets his girlfriend, has an affair with another woman, and leaves her 2 bucks in thanks, which clearly outrages her. The effort was grand and valiant, but it made me recall the words of a professional artist, "You can tell an amateur by the way they put in too much, they always go overboard". This seemed less like an experiment of Avant-Garde wonder-making for the audience, and more like a self-congratulatory trip the two creators took in their trial at filmmaking. Yes there was interesting cinematography, costumes, colour schemes and shooting angles, but the knowledge that every scene was an overzealous attempt at high-art made the film less enjoyable, leaving the feeling of too much pretension.

Then, Philippe Rostaing's The Writer's Journey, probably my personal favorite. I was only disappointed in the fact that this was only three minutes long. In this stop-motion film, a lone man in a room creates his craft, immersed in the solitary journey that is writing. My appreciation of the written word and stop-motion is not the sole reason for loving this one. The way the story unfolds perfectly, using projected live-action film to represent the tales the clay man is creating was terrific. This received some of the greatest applause of all the films, and well deserved.

NEWS by David Shea was a hilarious 9-minute satire of the news industry focusing on the news as the reporters see it, including one who does some investigative journalism to find his wife in bed with his best friend and then interviews her. With a strong air of the disenfranchised, this comedy was one of the most popular of this gala.

Mercy Seed by Anthony Seck was clearly the big-budget 'feature' of the night. This 27-minute drama about a farmer out to get justice was not only beautifully shot and deeply moving, but brilliantly acted by the likes of big-league Canadian actor Tom Noonan. Pretty good for an approximate $10,000 budget.

Finally we had another wonderful comedy. Glen Amo's 5-minute "Hii-Yaa!" incorporated silent film and Kung-Fu, making this another of the theater's favorites. Sadly for me, the utter rip-off of that Looney Tunes sketch where the sheepdog fights the coyote all day long then they punch out their time cards, wishing each othr a good night ruined the entire film for me as it seemed more like plagiarism than tribute, but it was indeed hilariously funny up to that point.

Overall seeing such a film event as this, made by real people who were in the theater with me watching their works and those of their peers... that alone makes it something worthy of returning to see, year after year. Though some films were just not my cup of tea, clearly they were independent, and the makers had creative control of their project. That my friend, is truly inspiring.

Think about it next time. You might just be impressed with what you find.