ResFest '97: A Sense of the Unexpected
by Joshua Moss
Tired of the same old gangsta-verite indies of film-festivaldom? Bored by
the upteenth mislabeled "low budge indie" starring some Fox television
20-something vying for respect? Annoyed by the 28th consecutive rehashing
of the "dysfunctional-family-with-witty-banter" festival winner? Then
praise God! Your prayers have been answered.
The New York edition of ResFest '97 kicked off to a packed house of
boisterous film fans. The lineup was varied and creative -- featuring an
eclectic collection of experimental and cutting edge shorts, some made
entirely on a computer, others featuring digital compositing techniques
with film -- and none of them starring Parker Posey. The crowd was involved
from the get-go, hooting and clapping before the curtain had even opened.
And although there were more than a few
leather-jacket-and-teeshirt-caesar-haircut hipsters making the scene, by
and large it was a supportive and appreciative audience, excited to see and
support new and innovative work.
The films themselves maintained a consistently strong level of quality and
innovation. Of particular note was "Wood Technology In The Design Of Structures",
directed by Erik Henry, an especially surreal and unique trip
into the world of the educational film, and "Adrenalin", directed by David
Johnston, an almost hallucinatory montage of a lone boxer's workout shot on
Hi-8 and featuring effects done in Adobe Photoshop. "The Dysfunctional Tourist"
was another strong entry, offering up a fragmented collage of
stills from the perspective of a traveler driving on the highway, and "Once"
and "Solitary Journey", both completely digitally created, also were nicely
realized and executed. Spike Jonze, the Cecil B. DeMille of post-modern
short filmmaking, chipped in with two amusing shorts, "Dinky", about a
miniature skater-punk, and "Mouse", about. . . a mouse driving around on a
moped. (You had to be there for that one. )
Given the exciting innovations in many of the shorts, some of the longer
narrative live-action pieces unfortunately felt a bit out of place (they
were edited digitally, but were otherwise all live-action). But even these
films, otherwise normal narrative 16mm pieces, offered up a nice reminder
that even so-called conventional filmmaking is frequently being made with
assistance from the digital realm.
But the main element that made ResFest '97 so exciting was the sense of the
unexpected. The realization that each film was made for no other reason
then because it contained filmmaking ideas that the filmmaker wanted to
try. Whether a film worked or not, it didn't really matter so much. Sure
the ones that worked as films were more successful, but even with the ones
that didn't quite work, there was still no doubt that they were trying,
reaching, groping, to achieve something original. With each title-card
announcing the next film in quick succession, there was a palpable sense of
the unknown. What would we possibly see next? With digital filmmaking, the
possibilities are indeed endless.
Fresh, original, creative and diverse, the opening night of ResFest '97 was
a huge success. Giving new, original and creative short films a chance to
be seen in a relaxed and competition free context, the screenings were fun
and easy. Celebrating ideas rather then money, creativity rather than buzz,
ResFest '97 deserves kudos for offering up a fresh baked loaf of bread in
the increasingly stale bakery of indie-film wanabees.
[Joshua Moss is an independent filmmaker and post production supervisor at
R/GA Digital Studios in Manhattan.]