Seattle serves up Filmapalooza

Exclusive to MeierMovies, March 7, 2017

The 2017 Filmapalooza has come and gone, and though the weather was as frosty as the post-Oscar reception given Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, our hearts and minds were kept warm by great films, pleasant company, good food, prodigious amounts of alcohol and, yes, legal marijuana. Thanks, Seattle!

Filmapaloooza, the international competition for the 48 Hour Film Project, brought together winning filmmakers from about 140 cities from around the world. In all, 18 short-film screenings (plus two feature films) were presented March 1-4.

Seattle city producer Krk Nordenstrom addresses attendees on Wednesday night. Click photos to enlarge.

The event was held at several locations near Seattle Center, and the proximity to cultural attractions such as the Museum of Pop Culture, Chihuly Glass and Garden, SIFF Film Center and the Space Needle enhanced the experience. Though the event seemed less glamorous and a bit grungier – fitting for Seattle – than in years past, attendance and enthusiasm were strong. Indeed, a couple of the screenings at the SIFF Cinema Uptown (the main movie location) were so packed that it was difficult to find even standing room. (Bigger theaters next year, perhaps in Paris?) Similarly crowded was the host Maxwell Hotel, which didn’t seem suited to big events but still managed to serve well as party central – though let’s not forget the great roles played by the bars on Roy Street (Solo, McMenamins and Streamline Tavern) and also Ozzie’s on Mercer Street, which served up a smorgasbord of drinks and karaoke on Thursday night. (And did anyone else try the amazing brunch at Toulouse Petite Kitchen? Saint-merde!)

While revelry and networking are crucial to Filmapalooza, the films are always front and center. The quality of the top five might have been a tad down from past years, but the top 15 or so were all solid, making it a crapshoot as to which films the judges would select. Each of the three judges undoubtedly brought a unique sensibility, taste and personality to the process, and that subjectivity should always be honored. Therefore, I congratulate all winners, especially grand champion Cote d’Azur, France (Marginaux by RIP Productions); runner-up Prague, Czech Republic (Bio Buddy by POPOJEDEM!); third-place Leeuwarden, the Netherlands (Giraffe by J.S. Film); fourth-place Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States (Screen: Righter by [REDACTED] Media); and the other eight films that were included among the judges’ top 12 films and will be going to the 2017 Cannes Film Festival. (Also going to Cannes will be three films not selected by the judges but instead picked by the 48 Hour Film Project staff after Filmapalooza: Secondhand Sunset from Albuquerque, New Mexico, United States; The First Week from Cape Town, South Africa; and The Answer, which was the Four Points competition winner.)

The judges overlooked several of my picks, including Nancy, France; Albuquerque, New Mexico, United States; Johannesburg, South Africa; Punta del Este, Uruguay; and Lynchburg and Richmond, Virginia, United States; and they also denied Toronto, Canada, a deserved nomination for best cinematography. But they (and the process) still deserve respect, as do every filmmaker, volunteer and staff member at Filmapalooza, particularly Mark Ruppert, Liz Langston, Christina Ruppert and Seattle city producer Krk Nordenstrom, who all worked tirelessly.

With that said, let’s not ignore the obvious: The judges made some just plain weird choices. For instance, why would Nancy, France, be included among the four nominees for best writing and best editing but not among the 12 best overall films? (Hey, it’s not like writing and editing are important.) And why would Morgen is er Zon (Tomorrow’s Sun), from Utrecht, the Netherlands, (a great “midnight film” that I have in my personal top 10) be nominated for best ensemble when there are just two performers, neither of whom were nominated for best actor or actress? If they were that good, don’t they also deserve a nomination for individual actor? Wouldn’t “best ensemble” have been better suited to, say, Giraffe from Leeuwarden, the Netherlands, a film that featured more than half a dozen solid performances? (Maybe the judges wanted to spread the awards around a bit.)

But, hey, I represent just one imperfect opinion, as do we all. Still, it’s not stopping me from – admittedly self-indulgently – presenting for the fourth year in a row my personal top 15, keeping in mind I was unable to see the special-genres block, in addition to most of blocks B, F and H because of the overlapping screenings. (If Filmapalooza could return to the format from 2014, which allowed everyone to see all films, that would enhance the film viewing and camaraderie. Regrettably, with a four-day format that includes two 48-day feature films, genre shorts, seminars and parties, that would be impossible unless the number of 48 Hour Film Project cities were reduced, which has been discussed.)

With no further ado, cue drum roll. And please be forgiving of me as we’re forgiving of the three Filmapalooza judges (Marco Grandia, Wayne Slaten and Hannah Macpherson, all of whom are past 48 Hour Film Project city winners):

  1. Nancy, France – Pour de Faux (It’s Not Real) by LAMBDA. My pick for best film is a charming, reality-bending story with a decidedly French sensibility. It’s the third year in a row that a film from France has been my top pick, following Symptomes d’Amour (Symptoms of Love) by Les Parasites from Montpellier in 2015 and Les Temps des Adieux (Time to Say Goodbye) by Compose It Art from Lyons in 2016. However, it did not make the judges’ list and, sadly, will not be going to the 2017 Cannes Festival. You can watch it on YouTube.
  2. Leeuwarden, the Netherlands – Giraffe by J.S. Film. The smartest comedy of this year’s Filmapalooza couldn’t have been much better had the filmmakers been given 48 days. It represents a solid understanding of absurdism, and the judges agreed, as they gave it third place and nominated its lead for best actress. It also won best writing and the first-ever Filmapalooza audience award. It will be going to Cannes. Watch it here.

    48 Hour Film Project founders Liz Langston and Mark Ruppert speak to the audience at the awards screening on Saturday night.

  3. Albuquerque, New Mexico, United States – Secondhand Sunset by Mixed Minds. This film represents my greatest departure from the judges’ selections, as it wasn’t nominated for anything. Though the story is somewhat predictable, it’s a beautiful and touching meditation on family, loss and personal ambition featuring a great performance by Sarah Minnich, who deserved a best-actress nomination. On a very positive note, it was announced on the Tuesday following Filmapalooza that, even though it wasn’t selected by the judges, Secondhand Sunset WILL be going to Cannes. Watch it here.
  4. Johannesburg, South Africa – The Mould & the Maker by Polony Calzone. One of the top crowd-pleasers of this year’s event, this dramedy about a block of cheese that comes to life has more charm than should be legally allowed in a 48-hour film. No Cannes do. See it here.
  5. Prague, Czech Republic – Bio Buddy by POPOJEDEM! Thanks to its instantly lovable ending, I predicted that this dramedy would be the 2017 grand champion. Instead, the judges picked it as runner-up, though it picked up the award for best director. It’s headed to Cannes. View it here.
  6. Punta del Este, Uruguay – Betty by Blackfox. Part comedy, part horror and all smart, this little gem might have a familiar premise, but I’ve never seen the subject explored this well in a 48-hour film before. Too bad it’s not going to Cannes. You can view it here.
  7. Lynchburg, Virginia – Mr. Scratch by Rocket Films Production Team GO! With its Babadook-inspired feel, Mr. Scratch was the best psychological horror at this year’s Filmapalooza. No Cannes trip is in its future, unfortunately, which will make Mr. Scratch even angrier. Watch it here.
  8. Amsterdam, the Netherlands – My Pleasure by Tripple3Film & Faber’s Fabels. Films from the Netherlands won the grand prizes at the 2014, 2015 and 2016 Filmapaloozas, so the odds were against both this film and Giraffe from Leeuwarden. Still, the art direction and performances in this period piece were solid enough to land it in my and the judges’ top 10, giving the Netherlands its second Cannes submission from the 2017 Filmapalooza. Watch it on Vimeo.
  9. Richmond, Virginia – No One by Pixel Drop. One of the best American films at Filmapalooza, this suspense film keeps us guessing until the very end. But it did not make the judges’ list and will not be going to Cannes. View it here.
  10. Utrecht, the Netherlands – Morgen is er Zon (Tomorrow’s Sun) by Pretty Fly. A 1976 Spanish horror film asks, Who Can Kill a Child? The answer: This film, and in a comedy to boot – with squibs! But because it’s a fellow 9-year-old who has ordered the hit, the film isn’t the train wreck of offensiveness you’d expect. It’ll be right at home at Cannes, along with the other two films from the Netherlands. Watch it here.
  11. Bogota, Colombia – Regresion by Iman Music. Time travel meets psychological therapy in this Memento-like exploration of tragedy. It’s headed to Cannes, but you can see it now here.
  12. Brasov, Romania – Stapled by Epic Ideas. What if Cupid were never allowed to fall in love? That sad dilemma is sweetly explored in this dramedy, though it won’t be going to Cannes.
  13. Cape Town, South Africa – The First Week by Mason Brothers Films. Recognized by the judges for its cinematography and score, this is the best silent film of the 2017 Filmapalooza. Though it wasn’t picked by the judges as one of the 12 best films, it WILL be one of 15 films going to Cannes, and deservedly so. See it here.
  14. Cincinnati, Ohio, United States – Lessons in Accidental Magic by Drive Media House. This fun, playful film is magic, literally, with some nifty special effects that are almost as impressive as the judges pick for best effects, Wander from Denver. (Perhaps it can magically transport itself to Cannes against the judges’ wishes.) You can view it here.
  15. Cordoba, Argentina – Concentrico by Ilusion Inteligencia Audiovisual. The best pure art film at this year’s Filmapalooza was shot in a single take – in water! The judges recognized its achievement and are sending it to Cannes. Watch it here.

French producer Olivier Dussausse and Orlando city producer Kyle Snavely belt out “Bohemian Rhapsody” at Ozzie’s on Thursday night.

I’d also like to recognize the films from Denver, Rome, Nashville and Tokyo. I do not have those on my “best of” list, but the judges do, and they will traveling to Cannes.

For a complete list of all winners and more information on the 48 Hour Film Project (the world’s largest timed filmmaking competition), visit the Filmapalooza website.

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