Indie Grits 2nd Night - Fox Theater Shorts Program
Thursday night's shorts program played another packed house at the Nickelodeon's under-renovation Fox Theater location in downtown Columbia, SC. Showing in a converted-lobby screening room were 15 films, mostly experimental, some of which were quite amazing. I'll get to a run-down of my favorites further down, but first, seeing as this is the first year the Fox Theater has been used in the festival, a word about this gorgeous building and the vision Nickelodeon executive director Larry Hembree has for it.
The Fox is exemplary of the classic movie house, with a projection booth in its main balcony auditorium that is in a class all its own, and once outfitted, will be a sight to behold. The plan is to have two auditoriums, the largest of which will be upstaris and capable of seating 150 people, and the lower auditorium which will seat around 90, and be utilized for secondary films and special screenings/events. If all goes according to plan, come 2011, Columbia will be home to a world-class, fully restored independent and art-house theater, and I can't wait.
Getting to the program, I'll spare the details on the films I absolutely hated - I'm looking at you, GIRI CHIT and THIS IS NOT A PIPE BOMB - by saying that the films I'm not discussing below were forgettable, utterly (unbearably) meandering and pretentious, or just plain-old sleep-inducing. Seek them out at your own risk. At the end of the article, I'll provide a list of all the films that were shown, for your convenience.
Jon Jones's THE GOLDEN MALLARD was the first highlight of the program. This four minute short about a portrait painter and two of his subjects draws heavily on silent comedy, and is shot in relatively flat black and white, much like in the early days of cinema. It utilizes a modern flourish of colorization to highlight a particularly inventive paint-throwing sequence and the pay-off at the end, which is pretty great. I was also highly impressed by a great title card at the beginning that goes by all too briefly. That title card in and of itself had me hooked - it was like a gift from movie heaven. Seriously, I may sound a bit obsessive about it to you, but it was that good. Really.
Speaking of titles and title sequences, Andre Silva's just-a-bit-too-long-but-utterly-gorgeous ICHTHYOPOLIS has a hum-dinger of one, blending stop-motion and psychotropic techniques to introduce the abstract tale of order and chaos between two realms. Being introduced to this film is to literally be submerged in the absurd and the sublime, with a singing goldfish announcing everything you need to know to watch what's coming up, title and all.
Completely amazing and shortest of all, clocking in at a single minute, was Brad Boll's COPS, a meditation on the absurd and horrifying (and hilarious) nature of everyone's favorite white trash crime show. I have to wonder, though it may be darker than Boll's vision, if this is how David Lynch would see this show.
Two of my favorites, though, occupy very different spots on the experimental spectrum. Charleston, SC's Liz Vaughan brought her lovely film CHIMNEY SWIFTS, a multimedia experimental tone poem about life in the Southeast. With handcut photographs (shot by Vaughan), and by animating them in conjunction with and in juxtaposition to one another, CHIMNEY SWIFTS may be the one true work of art I've seen at this year's festival. It's breathtaking in its beauty, and endearing and personal and intimate in its handmade quality.
(note: Look for my interview with Vaughan on an upcoming episode of Shadows and Light.)
The program's final film was an eclectic grab-bag of a home movie by Phoebe Brush. Part music video, part family portrait, and part folk philosophy, the film SPITTY is a confounding, challenging, inspirational, oddball, and endearing work that revolves around a father and his daughter who write and perform "Spitties", subversive, politically charged ditties, ranging in topics from Woody Guthrie to MLK, Jr., to a love for dogs. The songs, like the film that showcases them, are ethereal, lo-fi and engaging in surprising ways.
The films shown at the Fox Theater Shorts Program were:
SPACEMAN - Nicole Triche, Durham, NC
ELEMENTS OF TIME - David Montgomery, Fernindina Beach, FL
THE GOLDEN MALLARD - Jon Jones, Coral Gables, FL
ICHTHYOPOLIS - Andre Silva, Wilmington, NC
TEMPO - Robin Salant, Memphis, TN
GIRI CHIT - Simon Tarr, Columbia, SC
SCENE 32 - Shambhavi Kaul, Durham, NC
COPS - Brad Boll, Chapel Hill, NC
SATIRYTOWN: SURREEL IN CABBAGETOWN - Rose Barron, Atlanta, GA
THIS IS NOT A PIPE BOMB - Georg Koszulinski, Gainesville, FL
DORNSTARTV: Ep 5.2 - Nate Dorn, Atlanta, GA
SWIM - Chip Moore, Cambridge, MA
TWO DOWNTOWN - Cara Hagan, Winston Salem, NC
CHIMNEY SWIFTS - Liz Vaughan, Charleston, SC
SPITTY - Phoebe Brush, Durham, NC
Look for brief write-ups on the nights two main selections, Anthony Kilburn's sex-tastic CHIAROSCURO, BABY! and Aaron Katz's COLD WEATHER (in a non-competition screening) from Pierce and Woody at some time in the near future.