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[IMAGE of La Vie d'un Chien from the program Shorts #1]
RESFEST, an annual traveling film festival, continually proves to be a bastion of innovative, mesmerizing, bizarre, and often brilliant filmmaking. Now in its ninth year, this worldwide affair recently kicked off in New York and will continue for the next four months, making stops in 35 cities spread across 15 countries on 6 continents. Along with it's traveling show of short films and features RESFEST combines live music performances, industry speakers, and studio tours. Much of the festival's daytime programming is slanted towards those within the film and design industries, but with the wealth of film content shown at night, enjoyment of the festivities is not exclusive to Mac owners and Studio employees.
Keep it Curious is the theme of this year's festival, an odd but fitting tag as the festival provides a wealth of content that ranges from unusual to intriguing, all produced by a collection of boundary pushing artists. Cutting edge filmmakers who I'd never heard of - including Gabriel Malaprade, Gaelle Denis, David Zellner, Francios Vogel, Jonnie Ross and Nagi Noda - along with a few recognizable names such as Talmage Cooley, Jared Hess and Chris Cunningham all took part in RESFEST 9.
The better part of the festival features artists who are able to marry the idea of innovative visual feats with interesting story lines. The members of this class include Denis' and her film City Paradise, about a relocation to England. Likewise Malaprade's Rehearsal is a stunning scenario of muppets paying homage to their dead creator. Winner take Steve, by the now-celebrated Napoleon Dynamite writer and director Jared Hess, is two minutes of geeked-out quirk. Duct Tape and Cover, the contribution from South Korea's Yong-Jin Park, is a cut-and-paste made into a funny and biting political satire.
The other side of RESFEST is a large amount of content by artists more concerned with technical visual wizardry than any sense of narrative craft. While visually stunning media - such as contributions from all three directors of the triple threat program, Jonnie Ross, and Nagi Noda and Francois Vogel - and various shorts from all 3 programs might be amazing to behold for an industry person, to outsider eyes like mine they come off as shallow. Watching these films was a bit like looking at a hi-tech kaleidoscope: visually arresting but not a work of art that is likely to linger on the palette long after.
In another category altogether was a film from Shorts Program One called Flesh. While other filmmakers chose to push the limits of technology, the creators of Flesh chose to push the limits of taste. With a description of "A city whose every structures seethes with pornographic imagery comes under attack from a wave of crashing airliners in an unflinching and outrageous take on media depictions of the 9/11 terror attacks," Flesh was striking from the outset. In the least, the idea of showing planes crashing into the silhouettes of the twin towers with lesbians making out inside of them is pretty fucked up. At my most indignant I'd describe it as disrespectful, disgraceful and abhorrent, especially given the context of showing it at a venue in New York that lies only a quarter of a mile away from ground zero, only days after the fourth anniversary of 9/11. In a sense the film was successful for the filmmakers - France's Eduaoard Saleir and Nicolas Schmerkin - as it got people talking, discussing, having a dialogue, and indeed generally stirred the diatribe of free publicity. While the underlying subtext of media, sex, the ills of society, et cetera is not lost on me, the idea of subtlety is without question lost on the filmmakers. Sensational? Yes, but so is Fox News. Tasteful is a whole other issue.
For all the button pushing caused by Flesh, one can concede that it is at least daring, which is in keeping with the idea of RESFEST. The highlights of last Years RESFEST were two short films, Ward 13 and Pol Pot's Birthday, and this year another remarkable breakout film graced the screen, John Harden's La Vie D'Un Chien, a brilliantly absurd film about a French scientist who develops a pill that will allow him to turn into and eventually live with dogs. A black and white film set in 1962 and voiced over in French, La Vie D'Un Chien delivers with outstanding comic effect.
What continues to make RESFEST a special event is the diversity of the films and the creativity of each of the unique filmmakers. The content of the festival doesn't fit any mold, and the festival's consistency only hangs on the fact that each entry is different, inventive and indeed, curious. Though the quality of each program varies, RESFEST will continue to serve as a showcase of what's new and what's next in the world of digital films. As it travels round the world for the next few months, it will unleash the unusual and the inventive on its audiences, and for the wealth of talent, and creativity involved it is unlike any other festival out there and, truly, a sight to behold. SEE ALSO: www.resfest.com
A staff writer based in Brooklyn, New York, Dan Williams is a frequent contributor to LAS magazine. He once lived in Köln, Germany for a semester, is currently persuing his MBA in New York, and recently switched sides and began working as a publicist for Special Ops Media in New York.
See other articles by Dan Williams.
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