Ruminations on Filmapalooza 2018

City producers gather before the “Best of Filmapalooza” screening. (Photos are by and copyright Cameron Meier / MeierMovies, LLC.)

Exclusive to MeierMovies, March 12, 2018

Filmapalooza 2018 – the international competition for the 48 Hour Film Project – concluded in Paris on Friday, and it was truly an experience worthy of the City of Light. This was the first year the event was held outside the United States, and it lived up to expectations, with spectacular venues in great locations. (No one could ever forget the awards party at the breathtaking 19th-century Hôtel de Ville.)

I attended and covered the previous four Filmapaloozas (2014 New Orleans, 2015 Hollywood, 2016 Atlanta and 2017 Seattle) for The Orlando Weekly and my own site, Part of that coverage included writing a summary article, discussing the highs and lows of the event, and publishing my own list of the best films. So this is the time one would expect to see another one of my critiques, except – stop the presses – the 48HFP actually allowed me to be a judge this year. On more than one occasion, I joked that founders Mark Ruppert and Liz Langston figured the only way to shut me up was to make me a judge. But, seriously, it was a tremendous and unexpected honor to be just one small part of this process, and I owe Mark, Liz, Christina Ruppert, Laura Schlecht, Brian Bowers, the staff of the Forum des Images (where most of the screenings were held), the staff of the Cinema Louxor and especially French city producer Olivier Dussausse a tremendous debt of gratitude. I should also thank my fellow judges (Damon Runyan, Ramiro San Honorio and Elen Bernard), with whom I had intellectually stimulating deliberations that – in a Filmapalooza first, according to Mark – stretched into multiple days.

Filmmakers gather for the awards ceremony at the Hôtel de Ville.

In addition to congratulating the Filmapalooza staff, volunteers and fellow judges for a job well done, let me thank all the filmmakers too. That’s 120 teams from 120 cities around the globe (not including the winners of the special competitions). Though it might sound cliché, they truly are all winners for just making it this far. Still, of course, some films are better than others, and I couldn’t be happier with the movies the judges selected as the top three. (Out of all 120 films – and, yes, I watched all of them – they happened to be my personal top three.)

Team FD Prod, from Clermont-Ferrand, France, receives the Grand Champion award for La Grand Ourse.

In third place is Nadie by Team Lucas, from Mexico City. If you’ve never seen a horror-musical-drama themed to the apocalypse, you owe it to yourself to watch this tense, gripping and unique creation. You can view it here.

In second place is Zu by Aveque le Sourire, from Paris. Funny, touching and charmingly quirky, it also picked up the judges’ prize for best direction, best ensemble and best actress (Paola Valentin). You can watch it here.

The grand champion is La Grand Ourse (The Big Dipper) by FD Prod, from Clermont-Ferrand, France. With a beautiful story, a perfect little twist, two solid performances and compelling cinematography, it feels like an accomplished piece of cinema. It’s a contender for the best 48HFP film I’ve seen since I started covering the Project six years ago. In addition to winning first place, it picked up the judges’ award for best writing. Watch it here.

Paola Valentin (from the Parisian film Zu) receives the best actress award from French city producer Olivier Dussausse while awards emcee Sarah Donnelly looks on.

Congratulations is due not just to these three films but to the other 12 that will represent Filmapalooza at the upcoming Cannes Film Festival. Selected directly by the 48HFP, with input from the judges, these films are certainly a geographically and thematically diverse group. Of those remaining 12, I’d like to throw out a personal congrats to team Settle Down Sailor’s Foregone Intrusion (from Melbourne, Australia), team Donny van de Beek’s Spring! (from Amsterdam, Netherlands) and team Zero’s That’s La Vie (from Rome, Italy). Luca di Giovanni, from the latter team, picked up the judges’ award for best actor.

But quality ran deep among this year’s films, and there were several good ones that went unrecognized. Among my favorites are team Paper Ghosts’s The New Mister Princess (from Nashville, Tennessee); My Town (from Tokyo, Japan); team Let the Bright One In’s Simple Things (from San Francisco, California); team Neon Twee’s Object Relations (from Toronto, Canada), which one the overall audience award; team Pit Film’s Oppassen (from Rotterdam, Netherlands); team Faro’s Aegidium (from Brussels, Belgium); team Les Synedones’ Souffle (from Tours, France); and team One Shot’s Bread with Butter (from Prague, Czech Republic). Judging film is obviously a subjective exercise, and speaking for myself and not necessarily the other judges or the 48HFP staff, these films are just as worthy of inclusion in Cannes as the ones that were ultimately selected.

Thus we close another Filmapalooza. To those I met, drank with, toured Paris with and – most importantly – had the privilege of watching your films, I salute you and hope to see you again at a Filma in the future. Au revoir.

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