I managed to see all or part of quite a few films again this year. Best part? The low price for an all access pass. Last year it was $50, which was worth every penny, but at $20 for the all-you-can-eat is a price that can't really be beat.
A film festival is more than just a lot of movies. Many of the films included a Q&A period with a director or screenwriter after the film to learn more about the film's details. Now tell me you wouldn't have welcomed an opportunity to hear a discussion with Alfred Hitchcock after watching Psycho, or Rope?
There were too many highlights for me to mention them all, but one was simply being able to see films in yet another venue that I'd never been in, the Sons of Norway Hall. Friday evening director Michael Neelsen's Last Day at Lambeau was an absolutely stellar documentary about the real story behind Brett Favre's departure from the Packers. The audience included a number of Packers fans wearing their green-and-gold. The bartender herself was wearing her cheesehead hat.
As they say, breaking up is hard to do. Emotions run high, and the real story is often obfuscated by the fog of press conferences and carefully worded statements. Neelson's analysis of this high profile departure is a worthy contribution to all fans of the game. When Brett Favre left the Packers, it was painful enough to leave a hole in the fans' hearts, but signing up to play for their arch rivals was tantamount to utter betrayal.
Needless to say, it was a riveting film. Good pacing, good story. And a good payoff.
One of the real pleasures of a film festival is the variety. Another benefit is having the opportunity to see a range of independently produced regional short films. The shorts were screened on Friday evening at nine and on Sunday, curated by Jacob Swanson who introduced each evening's fare.
The Friday night airing began with "Laurie's Path," a painful story of one woman's very rough road, told in a matter-of-fact "here's what happened" manner. Kids, if you're not convinced yet, here's a bit of in your face insight about what happens when you get addicted to drugs, spend time in prison, and have to deal with AIDS, along with the side effects of everything else.
I think that was the second longest of the shorts. Other films that stuck with me included Toby Thomas Churchill's "Savannah" which was assembled from found footage left over from the film Savannah Smiles.
A three minute flick about Kenspeckle Letterpress by Brian Barber and Jaime Meredith was simple but elegant. I also enjoyed The Garden, a hilarious short film that kept you paying attention because you kept wondering where it was going to go. The longer Transgenderism was equally amusing for the same reasons. What are these people up to here?
But there were some engaging moments in the films that defied easy categorization. I was quite impressed with the power of soundtrack and visuals, especially when tangled in ambiguity. Kathy McTavish's evocative "Holy Fool / The Firebird." was one of these. McTavish is branching out in all kinds of fascinating directions. The imagery and slowly building soundtrack were haunting, producing a swirling feeling of interior landscapes. I would like to see this again... In fact, I hope to see several of these again.
The last film of the evening was based on my short story Episode on South Street. It's a very dark interpretation of a an already dark story line about an obsessive compulsive artist who is wrestling with his own inner demons. The 2004 film by Adam Fish originally aired at the Erie Horror/Suspense Film Festival. I recently discovered that Episode on South Street is now on Vimeo. If you check it out, I welcome your feedback. You may want to read the original story upon out of which this film emerged, to compare and contrast the different ways various media work to create a narrative. It is the second to last story in my volume The Breaking Point and Other Stories which you can find in eBook form here.
Sunday was another great evening for short documentaries, music videos and stories in film. It was fitting that Andrew Perfetti's A Few Minutes with Alan Sparhawk aired, an interview documentary that shines a light on facets of his own interior motivations, along with advice to other musicians seeking life direction. Something of Alan Sparhawk was shared nearly every day of this year's festival, a musician whose been really giving himself away to his North Country community.
Meanwhile, life goes on all around you. Take something in... HeartBeat Idol tomorrow night. Artist Kamikaze IV on Thursday at Luce, and three art openings Friday eve in the heart of downtown. There's always something to look forward to. Embrace it.