Filmapalooza 2015

Tinseltown hosts the 48 Hour Film Project’s annual event

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Les Parasites pose with 48 Hour Film Project founders Liz Langston (left) and Mark Ruppert (right). Photo courtesy of and copyright Filmapalooza. Click on each photo for a larger, higher-resolution version.

Parasites invaded Filmapalooza 2015 in Los Angeles last weekend, but no one seemed to mind. Indeed, we were all the richer for it.

The invaders in question are actually Les Parasites, a group of French filmmakers who won four of the five cities they entered in 2014. And they might have won the fifth, Paris, had their film not been disqualified on a technicality. That feat had never before been accomplished at the 48 Hour Film Project and might never again.

Even more astonishingly, at this year’s Filmapalooza, which was held February 26 – March 1, Les Parasites had the three best films among the 125 shown. (The only reason their fourth film, from Tours, wasn’t high on my list too is that I didn’t have a chance to see it, thanks to the overlapping schedule, which made it impossible for a person to see every film.) The judges might not have quite agreed with me, as they voted Rotterdam’s These Dirty Words the best, but Les Parasites’ work did not go unnoticed, and the event’s attendees sent them off to the Cannes Film Festival (where the top films go) with a standing ovation.

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Rotterdam’s Jear Productions celebrate their win for best overall film. Photo courtesy of and copyright Filmapalooza.

As a reminder, Filmapalooza is the yearly culmination of the 48 Hour Film Project, the world’s largest timed filmmaking competition. Started in 2001 by Mark Ruppert and Liz Langston, the “48” gives participants just two days to complete a film between four and seven minutes in length, not including end credits. Filmmakers cannot pay anyone, but they can form their team and acquire equipment in advance. And to prevent teams from writing and shooting beforehand, participants are assigned a genre, line of dialogue, prop, and character name and trait when the competition starts.

I’ve covered the event two years in a row, accompanying the winning team from my hometown, Orlando, Florida. For more background on the event, see my article from last year.

Ruppert, Langston and all their staff and volunteers again worked tirelessly to pull off this massive competition, and the work of Les Parasites and a few other filmmakers was breathtaking, especially given the time constraints, but the event lacked some of the energy and camaraderie from the previous year’s Filmapalooza in New Orleans. First, we were told the films would be screened at the famous Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. However, the screenings actually took place next door to the historic venue, at the TCL Chinese Theatre multiplex. We were crammed into two theaters with too-little space and bad sightlines. Sure, the location was impossible to beat and the sound and picture quality were topnotch, but when you tell filmmakers they will be seeing their movies on arguably the world’s most famous movie screen, it’s a tad disappointing to end up seeing them in a multiplex instead.

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Each of the 125 city winners received a trophy. Photo courtesy of and copyright Filmapalooza.

Second, to apparently free up more time for filmmaking seminars (which were admittedly quite good), a feature presentation on the closing Sunday and an overlong awards ceremony, organizers this year decided to stagger the screening times. This meant attendees could see, at most, only half the films. This might sound like a lot, but when you’re trying to network with your fellow filmmakers, it helps to have seen their films. And for a critic like myself, it makes compiling a true top-10 list impossible. I still managed to compile one from the roughly 60 movies I saw, but it’s admittedly not as comprehensive as last year’s.

Third – and this is no fault of the organizers – the 2015 event felt more scattered than the previous year’s thanks to the energy of Los Angeles. While the New Orleans event seemed more tightknit, with more filmmakers getting to know each other, this year’s Filmapalooza seemed spread out, with the social events not as well attended. Perhaps attendees simply had other things to do and other people to see while in Los Angeles. I know I did. And no one should be blamed for that. Nevertheless, some of the great energy of New Orleans was missing this year.

Before I reveal my top 10, I would be remiss if I didn’t comment on the judging. While there were some expected peculiarities, such as the Nashville, Tennessee, film Contrary to Likeness picking up best director and best editing but losing to Rotterdam’s These Dirty Words for best overall movie, the real head scratcher was the fact that the 11 films (12 if you count the winner of the New Amsterdam vodka “It’s Your Town” documentary contest) screened at the awards ceremony on Sunday were NOT the ones that are being sent on to the Cannes Film Festival. Yes, the list is similar, but it’s not identical, and we were never told why. (Ruppert and Langston didn’t return my inquisitive e-mails.) This undoubtedly left Les Parasites wondering why their excellent film from Lyon (Retcon), which was screened at the awards presentation, was left off the Cannes list. Conversely, the folks from San Antonio must have been elated when their movie, Thunder & Ash, was selected after NOT being screened.

IMG_1734Despite these oddities, most attendees were happy to see their movies on the big screen, have a chance to visit Hollywood and meet their fellow filmmakers from around the world. And for the 115 teams that didn’t make it to Cannes, including my friends from Orlando, the challenge looms invitingly large once again for 2016.

So what should we expect from Les Parasites next year at Filmapalooza? Nothing. “We’re retiring from the ‘48,’” they told me. Sounds great, guys. Now go win an Oscar.

 

My top 10

  1. Symptomes d’Amour (Symptoms of Love) by Les Parasites, from Montpellier, France (4 stars on 0-5 scale)*
  2. Bienvenue Chez Vous (Welcome Home) by Les Parasites, from Dijon, France (3 stars)
  3. Retcon by Les Parasites, from Lyon, France (3 stars)
  4. Contrary to Likeness by Paper Ghost Pictures, from Nashville, Tennessee, U.S. * (3 stars)
  5. Sixteeen-Twentyseven by Socially Present, from Paducah, Kentucky, U.S. (3 stars)
  6. These Dirty Words by Jear Productions, from Rotterdam, Netherlands * (3 stars)
  7. EVT by Anonymous Productions, from St. Louis, Missouri, U.S. * (2 stars)
  8. Saved by the Bell by Yes, We Cannes, from Asheville, North Carolina, U.S. # (2 stars)
  9. I-Charon by Challenge Accepted, from Seattle, Washington, U.S. * (2 stars)
  10. Desnuditos by Los Perdedores, from Granada (2 stars)

* Films moving on to the Cannes Film Festival

# This film, a joint project of three cities, was the honorable-mention winner from Asheville, thus making it ineligible for Cannes.

IMG_1774For a complete list of award winners, see http://www.48hourfilm.com/news-articles. To see all of Les Parasites’ films – though, regrettably, not all contain English subtitles – visit https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqS1gDNHEX3FgJ8dPfSuRoQ. And to connect with them on Facebook, visit https://www.facebook.com/Parasites.