The F&Mad Film Fest showcased several student films at Tower Theater ranging in style, structure and length to let students in the Film and Media Department screen their movies the way a movie is meant to be seen on the screen.
La Rechute began the night by showing the aftermath of a dancer in black and white and walls covered with what appeared at first to be blood (to a mind made macabre by horror movie expectations) but as the film progresses, the liquid substance appears as black paint, covering the dancer. French narration permeates the beginning and end speaking of smoke and distance and the entire three minutes captivated. The images hooked the viewer and the low-key synth music atmospherically moved the audience along. Finally, the climax of the dancer was perfectly surreal; movements lashing black paint across white walls to look at beauty within anger. This short film did not win any awards, yet was the personal highlight of the entire evening and nothing that followed gratified the visual and auditory senses the same. The production, the directing and most of all the editing and art design were all professional and already helped an otherwise captivating three minutes stand apart.
Somehow the film Dinosaurs:Science Fiction vs. Science won the Jury Award. A twelve minute documentary featuring the Steven Speilberg film Jurassic Park. That is not necessarily an overstatement as the majority of the film was spent watching two sardonic dinosaur puppets rehash the same scientific incredulity overheard from zealous fanboys critiquing any popular work of science fiction. There were minute stretches of the video when the audience simply watched scenes from Jurassic Park albeit with the border of a mock theater screen and chairs. The puppets were quippy, to say the absolute least. The twelve minute documentary does make use of scenes from other dinosaur centric films harped primarily on Jurassic Park. Spells of the documentary were spent with paragraphical text on the screen, making the viewer wonder whether the film was merely intended as a slideshow presentation. In the end, a documentary tries to take on a beloved film wanting the viewer to disbelieve the wonder (or, say, magic) of film for the believability that these puppets were insightful. The criticism, seen in a TED talk referenced in the film, has been done. The ordeal seemed about as relevant as worrying that you might be chased by a t-rex.
Lucy came next. It was a three minute music video encompassing themes of loss and grief but through the use of a song rather than acting or directing. The film progresses within the day-to- day activities of a man missing a recently (spoiler) deceased girl named Lucy and trying to cope. A minute into the film, a song starts playing sounding disjointed to the overall look of the film and pushing it into Youtube fan-film territory instead of incorporating actual substance about modes of loss.
Westside Leadership Institute: Empowering the Community came next. As documentaries go, especially within the time limit granted, the piece informed well enough and provided a physical look at income inequality. It had interviews from members in the Salt Lake community working in the Westside Leadership Institute who are trying to fix housing equality among other issues. The imagery was sufficient showing the divide from across streets. The documentary nonetheless is an important topic that could be explored further.
Next was The Timekeeper, a three minute film about a guy walking around SLC, random quotes of Kahlil Gibran and Lord Byron narrating, a shot of still photographs behind the man walking to give the illusion time was still and then it ended. There was little narrative to digest except that maybe people ought to be wearing more or less watches? Maybe we’ll have 12 minutes of wry dina-puppets to explains.
Servicing the Homeless: The Legacy Initiative (also by the director of Westside) ran a similar vein as the second documentary dealing with income inequality and living conditions of SLC’s disenfranchised voices. The beginning showed some of the ways the Legacy Initiative reaches out (with cosplay, burritos, blankets, etc.). But the story began to shift in the middle to how great everyone part of the organization feels. Which, is fine, but seeing how the hero of the piece felt and their overall happy demeanor undercuts the actual stories of the few homeless interviewed.
Stillness was the best comedy of the evening to which no one laughed at, but wait!; it began with a meditative artist drawing a man in a wheelchair who had a pair of scissors through his heart. The artist goes on to narrate how his “audience” demands perfection. There are shots of the artist in a garden musing that nature is only still for a second. An elderly woman enters the back of the screen and the author, looking perturbed, gets up with a shovel and follows her inside the presumably same house. He leaves his sketchpad on the ground which shows he is writing a children’s book. Hilarious. Never saw it coming. The theater was silent and my laughing luckily mixed with the applause. The short film told an entire story with a ridiculously good ending and laughed at the dedication of artists in surely the best medium to do so.
Diego’s Dream was a twelve minute look at a young man named Diego who had crossed the Mexican / United States border illegally as child to be reunited with his father. He tells us his story and the entire time the camera is positioned only on him and the experience watching his recounting was heart-wrenching. Artwork and photographs were edited in to give visual accompaniment but his story, for its realness, its introspection and its grasp of human nature and perseverance as told by Diego were enough. The subject matter is incredibly relevant and the minimalistic approach did a great service to Diego. After his story is told, Diego’s optimism for his future permeates through; it was not a lamentation but a celebration of life.
Winner of the Audience Prize went to Undesirables, the only animated film of the evening. It old the stories of children on the streets of Rio de Janeiro. The story was genre conventional; an older brother providing for his sister some fruit and essentials, while he would dream at night. The animation was crudely drawn and colored, the dialogue garbled and scratchy. This added a certain aesthetic to the overall narrative, that was often times distracting. Does that mean the piece was distracting from its purpose? Not at all, although something could be said for how much an audience needs to be jarred to get a message.
Last of all was Lengthen, a nicely edited four minutes of a ballet dancer at University. A voiceover from the ballet teacher tells the protagonist to lengthen in class, while at home the dancer appears to be focusing solely on her own body. The theme was definitely body-idealizing centered, but either because of unrealistic expectations of merely a typical dance practice, neither was overtly clear. Still, it was well edited between the home life and mirror-body-watching of the dancer juxtaposed against the class sessions to show determination.
Each film brought something to Tower Theater. The production on many was excellent and it was great to look at the products of talent from the University of Utah. I am very excited for the next student film festival and hope a few of these directors continue to make films more outstanding.
La Rechute, dr. Stéphane Glynn.
Dinosaurs:Science Fiction vs. Science, dr. Jeremiah LaFleur
Lucy, Tory Sicklick
Westside Leadership Institute: Empowering the Community, dr. Eric Ferguson
The Timekeeper, dr. Peter Davidson
Servicing the Homeless: The Legacy Initiative, dr. Eric Ferguson
Stillness, dr. Valters Mirkss
Diego’s Dream, dr. Peter Davidson
Undesirables, dr. Angela Challis
Lengthen, dr. Maggie Glendenning