Wednesday, February 22, 2006

BIFF Friday, Feb 17th - Film/Video Panel and Humanitarian Films.

So last Friday, I dragged the hubby to the Boulder International Film Festival (BIFF) to see the work of one of my favorite professors from CU, Kathleen Man. I am ashamed to say that this is my first time ever to a film festival. It was a wonderful experience; I am so glad I went. I am making a little resolution now to go to as many as I can in the future. If nothing else, at least I have to go to local ones.

At the festival, I attended a panel discussion on the future of cinema considering new distribution methods such as vodcasting and other downloadable films. There were some comments on topic, such as how it's inevitable that at some point soon, if you really want to, you will be able to download and watch
an entire Lord of the Rings on your cell phone. The filmmakers on the panel couldn't understand why this would be desirable, but they find inevitable with current trends. Another panel participant (my prof) lamented that, in the near future, we may all have our noses to iPods and cellphones and interact with real people in the real world progressively less.

Also touched on was the recent experiment by Steven Soderbergh in digital filmmaking and simultaneous release. But little was said beyond what was in the media on the subject. Most of the discussion centered on the topic that is currently lodged in the consciousness of filmmakers everywhere: the film/video debate. This topic was in full swing before all the introductions had even been completed when one digital filmmaker announced the death of film, declaring to all that it had indeed already happened. Of the six panelists, four said they were converts. They had previously only worked in film, and had thought they would only ever work in film, but were recently (some more recently than others) discovering the benefits of video. However, most of those benefits were financial rather than aesthetic, so some of them vehemently disagreed with the digital filmmaker who incited the discussion.

Kathleen Man said that film was still superior in quality both for capturing footage and even more so for projecting footage. She said that film has a much greater latitude (range of light capturable by the medium) on the overexposure side than even the best video, and clearly it has something aesthetically that video doesn't because every digital filmmaker employs countless filters, lenses, and other techniques to emulate film! While Digital Filmmaker 1 (and his buddy, Digital Filmmaker 2) admitted that video still didn't come close to film for projection, he said that it was as great as it needed to be for capturing, besides, no one cares about the image; it's all about the story and the medium the story is captured on really doesn't matter. (Excuse me??? Sorry, I thought film/video was an inherently visual medium. And people do care -- though maybe not as much as some filmmakers would like them to -- otherwise why would people ask if a movie is something "I have to see on the big screen, or can I wait for the video?"). Oddly enough, the films and trailers available on the website of Digital Filmmakers 1 and 2 shows an inclination toward artfully visual storytelling. Kathleen argued (with me as her silent cheerleader in the audience) that to state that the medium was inconsequential was to exclude experimental filmmaking from the discussion, since experimental filmmaking is an artform for which the choice of medium is a vital component of the finished piece.

Another panelist argued that while some major filmmakers (Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorcese, Steven Soderbergh) were turning to digital, it was mostly for economic reasons, and most, if given enough financing, would still opt for film for aesthetic reasons. (Lucas, of course, being on the other side of that argument, having made SW3 in HD.) As long as film is an aesthetic choice, he argued, it will not die. Digital Filmmaker 1 disagreed, stating that after a point, it will be such an outdated mode of operation, that it won't even be a feasible option. But he conceded that that hasn't happened as yet, so maybe he was exaggerating a bit by declaring film as already deceased.

After the animated disucussions were over, we attended Program 10 of the film schedule. This included a short, student film and two 50/60 minute docs on Nepalese children. The student film, a project made by a CU film student, wasn't much to write home (or blog) about, though I will admit it is lightyears ahead of the only narrative film I made at CU. But it's interesting to note that it was shot in 16mm film while both the following films (including the one made by my prof, a film advocate) were shot on MiniDV. The difference in quality and texture was pretty strong. Even my husband asked me afterward what it was that made the first film look so much prettier than the following film (the other Nepal doc), even though both were seemingly amateurish. "Film," I answered, "film."

A School of Their Own (Debra Kaufman, 2005)
A doc by a woman who had travelled to Nepal (to visit her sponsored Nepalese child) and found a need to tell the world about the failures and successes (mostly failures) of the local school system.
Thanks to this film, we learn of the terrible state of Nepal, especially for people of lower castes, especially children. They receive little, if any, education, are put to work very young, and are trafficked into sexual slavery. One man, a Dutch guy, decided to start a school for lower caste children. He describes his successes and the government's failures, as Nepalese children and adults also join in discussions. Yeah, ok, maybe this is an important topic to put out there and the film does good by opening up the discourse, but it's not a great film. I realize that the filmmaker was the person who was passionate enough to make the film, but I wish she would have used her film to get funding for a film made by professionals. Maybe that is unfair; I don't know her background and plenty of pro-filmmakers make crap films. One website lists her as a journalist, which explains why she seems to have decent (if not leading) interview skills. But the camerawork is not very good and the structure is all over the place as she tries to cover every related topic. Also frustrating was the inconsistent and sometimes unattractive subtitling. Additionally, the film is completely drowned in upbeat Nepalese music. Worse than those offenses were the manipulative techniques. Those don't point to a lack of professionalism though, as many professionals use manipulation in docs. Still they were bothersome, and I lost my ability to hear what she had to say with all my distractions. Too bad, in someone else's hands, maybe I would have learned a lot.

Sita: A Girl From Jambu (Kathleen Man, 2005)
A lovely doc/narrative that combines a live performance of a street play (written and performed by young, Nepalese girls) about child/sex trafficking and a fictionalized/narrative version of the same story.
Yes, ok, I am biased. But this film was really wonderful. It really showed, by contrast with the previous film, what could be accomplished with DV in the hands of a quality filmmaker. The images were stellar. The structure, too, was terrific. I loved the live street play and narrative progressing together and intersecting at crucial moments. What amazing, brave, and talented young girls these are that have written and performed this play with such a tough topic. The story follows the tragedy of Sita, a rural girl who dreams of a life with her young love. When her love loses his job, he loses courage to speak to Sita's parents about marrying her. She is then tricked into sexual slavery by a "cousin" who sells her in the city to a brothel. Her story is tragic, yet somehow this telling is so uplifting, so hopeful. Maybe it's the combination of the beauty of the image, the beauty of the story, and the hope generated by a group of young girls who are trying to make a difference. Ah, just wonderful. If you have the chance to see this film at any time, you should take it. For more information see the film's website as well as Kathleen Man's own website


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1 comment:

Alessandro_PPG said...

Olá! Sou publicitário e ilustrador brasileiro e tenho um estúdio de finalização de comerciais e ilustração publicitária aqui na Vila Olímpia! Gostaria também de fazer novos contatos de amizades bacanas! Meu site: www.ilustrada.ppg.br! Abraços!

 

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