Monday, October 19, 2009
The New Hampshire Film Festival
I attended the New Hampshire Film Festival this weekend and discovered that the film scene in the state does indeed have a pulse. It's very easy to think of New Hampshire as a secluded block of land in the northeast delegated only to agrarian pursuits and devoid of culture altogether. That may partly be the case in Northern New Hampshire, but in the Southernmost region of the state, reaching towards Boston, there is somewhat of a lively cultural landscape. On the seacoast is Portsmouth, where the festival takes place, a quaint little town containing a total of five screening venues. Over a span of four days, feature films, documentaries, short films, and student films were shown (one of which was mine), and several panels featuring industry professionals were held. Discussions dealt with working on crew on location, breaking into the film business, the new media, distribution on the internet, and more, several of which couldn't help but mention the possibility of a Hollywood-like studio system being built nearby in Plymouth, Massachusetts.
Of the great deal of short films I saw at the festival, not one was completely absent of either nudity or bloody violence. In fact, the overarching mood of the selections was just about uniformly grim; even the one comedy I saw, The Continuing and Lamentable Saga of the Suicide Brothers, winner of Best Short Comedy, hinged itself around a group of friends joyously ending each other's lives in the woods, waxing nostalgic in the process. The film rode a precariously thin line between blatant discomfort and pitch-perfect dark comedy, in my opinion falling into the former most often. Other dramatic shorts were in the vein of hyper-stylized realism; most however relied too heavily on their premises (better suited to features) at the expense of characterization and substance. For instance, Theodore Melfi's The Beneficiary told a story of a stereotypically brutal truck-driver who is fired for reckless driving and therefore seeks to murder the man who phoned him in. With its brooding lighting and focus on ringing telephones, the film could have acquired some of the heft of a David Lynch film had it been told in a more labored fashion. Despite these flaws though, all of the shorts I saw were visually impressive.
Over the next few days, I'll be reviewing the few features I saw at the festival. Unfortunately, I missed several of the most hyped films due to the chaotic overlapping of the schedule, including, most significantly, the Best Feature winner, Tim Disney's American Violet. On the whole though, the festival was well run and thoroughly exciting, so stay tuned for my upcoming posts.