Reviewing the inaugural version of the i48 Film Festival, in which 30 mostly amateur production teams each wrote, produced and edited a four to seven minute film during the weekend of May 15 and 16, is especially fun from the perspective of a journalist. For in order to ensure the spontaneity of each entry, festival organizers and local filmmakers Andrew Ellis and Greg Bayne insisted that each film utilize a genre, a line of dialogue ("We're making way too much of this") a prop (a flyswatter) and a character (Dale Heckenbecker, a "reporter") about which the teams weren't told until Friday, May 14.
If each team's take on Mr. Heckenbecker is taken to embody their wholly valid perspective of local media, then ... sorry, guys. Almost a quarter of the films revolved around the monumental ineptitude of Heckenbecker and by extension journalism itself, to the point that he was ultimately seen in the festival's final film, Team Pang's excellent comedy Leap Frog to be sleeping drunkenly in the back of a farm's manure truck. Three teams made Heckenbecker into an evil sadist, using his extensive media powers to carelessly ruin the lives of innocents—which gives me some excellent ideas. Another five teams promptly killed Heckenbecker off with implements ranging from knives to nooses to a mysterious and murderous It—as with the films The Stranded and Grandview by production squads What the Deuce and Two Missing Samurai, the pair of which deservingly gobbled up most of the evening's awards, along with the brilliantly opaque comedy and Best Picture winner Buzz-Buzz! by local team Go Zombionic Funk.
What was most surprising and welcome about the i48, though, was the extent to which almost all teams—especially those in the easy-to-mock categories of "horror" and "suspense"—embraced their genres rather than lampooning or shirking them. Five, a horror film by False Colour Productions, was one fine example, combining deceivingly simple camera tricks, psychological conflict—a violent young man struggling to retain his sense of self under the influence of psychotropic medication—and some truly unsettling love scenes involving a bunny costume for a powerful, calculated effect that belies the film's hasty origins. From a lo-fi war of action figures to a Michael Hoffman-authored street fight, the entire gamut of local film possibilities were represented, and the impact on audience-goers lasted far longer than seven minutes.
And the winners are ...
Best Picture: Buzz-Buzz! by Go Zombionic Funk!
Second: The Stranded by What the Deuce
Third: Grandview by Two Missing Samurai