Friday October 10th at THE KERRY FILM FESTIVAL
Another day packed with interesting events. I was able to get to three of the half dozen available.
I’ve been writing articles for www.cgsociety,com this year, about disruptive technology, meaning the effect of current technological developments on the way we make and distribute media. Games meets film, meets games, meets the internet and so on. Transmedia is a movement I first heard of at the Berlinale in 2013, in which film makers (for want of a better title) combine interactive media with directed media to create a new kind of experience. I suspect time will show they were the advance guard of a new media delivery that we will see come into prominence over the next decade (if it even takes that long).
The first person up, award-winning Director Anrick Bregman, showed us his work in commercials. In Berlin I had seen various projects but all of them essentially documentary content. Having to use this approach to media while keeping the kind of focus and audience control required by commercials must be a nightmare. Well, that is pretty much what Anrick said.
The imagery is fairly low resolution, to accommodate the data streaming speeds and the differing demands of the whole range of browser access, whether on a computer or an iPhone, or whatever. But the thrill of this talk, apart from Anrick’s droll, sardonic style of conversation, was the sheer scale of imagination at play.
The second man up, Dawid Marcokowski, who, with his partner Kasia Kifert works under the pseudonym of The Kissinger Twins, showed us some examples of his work. He is a strange combination, he works in Transmedia, he has a quirky mind and a mastery of technology, but their films all referenced retro-film and games art. The Trip is one excellent example. It is a project that Unit 9 have issued as a film, a cd, an app, an online interactive site, any and every delivery system they could think of.
At one point, Dawid, also a witty and generous speaker, broke the stream of his talk to complain about having to transfer from Flash to HTML5, about how much more difficult and constraining working in code had been, the effect on his workflow and on the films he makes and so forth, but seeing the work, all I can say is, if he had any problems he has conquered them all. The Kissinger Twins make films that are dynamic, funny and very attractive to look at.
The Kissinger Twins and Anrick and several other directors work together as Unit 9 – www.unit9.com a production studio producing commercials and films and other media. Go to the site and take a look at a new world of media and get ready because this kind of thing is going to become commonplace. It is the frontier of new forms and styles of media creation that will fit to the coming changes in delivery, in particular Oculus Rift but also any home cinema system you own now or may own soon.
A friend of mine, Alex McDowell, the Hollywood Production Designer (Fight Club, Minority Report, Terminal among many others) and now a professor at the University Of Southern California, said to me recently, referring to the new tools of creation and of delivery, “If you can imagine it, you can make it”. This is where the media is going, and these guys at Unit 9 are more than ready for it.
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Nickel Film Festival shorts
In the afternoon I attended the Nickel Film Festival winning short films. This is another of the Kerry Film Festivals international cooperative arrangements, like the Turkish Film Festival exchange that we saw earlier in the week. As I believe will be proved to be the case with the Kerry Film Festival winners, this was an excellent selection of films. We are asked to vote for the audience award at these screenings, and most of the time I have been clear on the one I liked best, but honestly, I could have chosen any of these.
Short film is as difficult and treacherous an art form as short story writing. In fact, harder, considering whole feature films have been made, based on a short story. Every story must have an arc, a development of the central characters and a beginning point and an end point for the story being told. In short films the added demand is that the arc of the story must start before the film and end after it. A sense of inconclusiveness is actually a plus, and this has often been the trap many of the short films shown here have fallen into. They try to finish the story, to come to a clear conclusion, but that only has the effect of making the ending seem rushed, or ill-conceived. But when they work, short films can be very effective, leaving you thinking, often in sorrow though also in pleasure, of what became of this or that character.
Infanticide was a very funny, excellently acted, little satire. In it a couple, forced by law to limit their family to one child, keep killing off any that disappoint them for one reason or another, so they might one day get the perfect child. There was a nice story development insofar as the soon-to-be-disposed-of kids were older and older with each new arrival/disposal (their first disappointment, for her lack of talent, was a six month old baby; by the end the condemned child was a teenager). There were some great comedy moments, but in the end it didn’t really go much beyond a single joke, the anxious parents and the pressure to produce successful children that marks the 21st Century. They didn’t mention China, where such a policy has persisted for many years now, and where the outcome has been truly tragic (if we are to believe all that we hear), but heck, this was a comedy, right? No need to get too serious about it!
Floodplain was beautifully shot in a beautiful setting, and well acted by its teenage stars, but although it was pretty good it was a bit shallow in the end, if you will forgive what is not meant as a pun. They build a raft to cross the floodplain but never get there. Instead their relationship ends. Is that a story arc? Maybe, but not enough to grab me. But as I said, still a well made film in a field of outstanding films.
The World Is Burning was another in the same vein. A kind of story, but more a situation. There is development but really it wasn’t the point. What we got was some finely drawn portraits of people who find it hard to connect, and yet are bound together by an event early in the film and their lives together in the backstory. This film fulfilled my personal taste in short film making. We got hints of the past and an uncertainty about the future, after the film. And great acting.
Novena is a documentary. It is the story of two gay people, a man and a woman, who were invited by their local Roman Catholic Church in Ireland to speak about their experiences growing up gay in the strict religious atmosphere of Ireland.
The film was beautifully constructed. We met them, we heard them speak. We saw the effect their talk had on their audience, though I should add, we only saw the sympathetic responses. I would have liked to see some hostile ones, but maybe that didn’t suit the director’s intentions for the film. Finally we had a glimpse of how preparing for and giving the talk had effected the protagonists. This film has already won several prestigious awards. It was not my favourite of the night, but I could see how many people would be engaged by it, not least gay folk, but by no means only them. They confronted the bigotry of Irish Catholicism, which has been at times and for far too long, predominant here, and overly powerful. There has been a revolution in recent years, following the revelations of abuse of power in the Church, and it would be enough if this film drives that revolution on.
The last film in the programme was a Canadian production, Little Man. For me, this film leapt out as belonging to quite a different league, a short film perfectly realised, a story with a rich background and dreadful consequences to come, but with the question, the hope that such is only a maybe. Maybe the kid will be alright, but maybe he won’t.
All we see is a conversation, between an idiot of a father trying to connect, and his son who would love to connect but is too young to make it happen. It takes place some time in the days before the father, already estranged from his family, goes to jail and the boy goes back to living with his mother. It is heartbreaking. The dialogue is sparse, eccentric, sometimes cringingly inappropriate as the father speaks to his 11 year old son as if they were gang members together.
And the saddest, most touching thing, is the fake moustache and beard the boy has drawn on his face. That simple metaphor told us everything about the film’s intention. The director, Joel Thomas Hynes, also writes songs and plays guitar, and acts in this film as the father. Goddam, why can’t he share some of that talent out!! But seriously, I hope he gets the career he deserves. This film got my vote.
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The evening’s entertainment at Siamsa Tire here in Tralee was a showing of a film called Beyond Clueless, but with the added attraction of the score being played live by Summercamp, a London duo, Jeremy Walmsley and, Elizabeth Sankey, accompanied by an unnamed but excellent drummer. The score was written by the immensely talented Mr. Walmsley. Jeremy is one of those Mike Oldfield types, a multi-instrumentalist, creatively original, thoughtful and, along with the other two in the group, damn professional. This band, on a stage off to the side of the screen so hardly able to see it to check, hit every cue spot on. The score they provided, mostly instrumental but also featuring the voice of Elizabeth at times, has a modern, almost ambient feel to it, that works perfectly with the film.
The film itself is a long, complex, analytical and never boring look at the so-called teen movies of the 1990s, a genre that tailed off as we entered the 21st Century. It was a master work of research and in particular, editing, pacey, amusing, clever and compelling.
The film is broken up into what were labelled Chapters, to allow the director Charlie Lyne to discuss the genre from various viewpoints, from the essential strands of the genre, for instance, the horror element that is often at the centre of these films, not least The Craft, which was referenced quite a lot, where other films might get only a single cut, through to the implications of those films in terms of the way they describe, criticise and extend the harrowing experience of being a teenager, the awful business of bullying, the precarious first steps into sexuality, and so on.
Beyond Clueless is concerned with American teenagers, exclusively so. The film doesn’t cover such films as Rebel Without A Cause, To Sir With Love, Lord Of The Flies, Violent Playground, or even The Railway Children, the teen movies of my teenage years (but I am a lot older than Charlie Lyne!). The films he referenced are the films that supplied the accompaniment to his growing up. Also, by limiting himself to the entirely American teen movies of the late 20th Century, he was able to put together a very coherent review and analysis of the genre. It certainly made me want to find some of these films and watch them again, old as I may be. I thought they were just silly, made for teenage kicks, but they’re more than that, so Charlie Lyne has persuaded me.