Local film's big night

Friday, March 30, 2007

When I was asked a few weeks back to be a judge at the third annual Show Me Digital Film Festival, my first thought was, "What do I know about film?"

As for the technical aspects of the medium, I'm probably as in the dark as some of the filmmakers would be if asked to judge a guitar-playing contest. Maybe even more so.

But I decided to take the plunge, thinking that it would be a great way to see the fruits of our diligent local filmmakers' labor. Local filmmakers are still a somewhat small, underground group, and unless you happen to be buddies with one of them, chances are you haven't seen their product. That is, unless you go to the Show Me Digital Film Festival.

Fourteen short films were shown in one night, most of them created by locals. Oh, there was free food, too. You can't beat that.

I really didn't know what to expect going into the thing, which took place Saturday at Port Cape's River City Yacht Club. What I found surprised me.

Surprise No. 1 came a few days before the event, when I heard Cape Girardeau's little film festival was sold out. Granted, there were fewer seats available than at previous festivals, and many of those in attendance were serving as entourages to the filmmakers, but the turnout was still good. If 150 people are interested enough to go the festival, even if they're going to watch their friends' films, it still shows a lot of interest in a medium that doesn't get a lot of exposure (no photography pun intended).

Surprise No. 2 came upon seeing the films and the quality of work that came out of the area. Sure there were down moments, times when even as short as a film was, it wasn't short enough. But those were rare.

A few of the highlights:

* "The River" or "The Making of a Total Disaster" -- This was probably the funniest thing I saw all night, directed by Bart Elfrink. This mockumentary focused on the fictional docudocumentary filmmaker Pierre, a talentless egomaniac making a documentary about the Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge. Not the making of the bridge, just of the bridge itself.

In the process, Pierre alienates his whole crew and expletives fly. Good stuff.

* "Meatball" -- This comedy directed by Miranda Summers had probably the strangest plot of all the films: a man and woman training to sneak into an Apple store and drop a meatball near a computer to protest U2's iPod advertising campaign. You don't even know why they're dropping this meatball until the end. What a plot!

* "Injustice" -- Nothing special about the plot -- a wrongly accused man in prison relives the murder of his wife and his subsequent arrest for the crime. Technically, this movie looked almost like a big-budget Hollywood action film. Tyler Williams took best director.

* "Unexplained Events: The Enigma Known as Bigfoot" -- Another hilarious film, this one directed by Zack Harris and made possible through the efforts of some of Cape Girardeau's youngest filmmakers. In "Bigfoot," a fake TV show recounts a bumpkin family's encounter with Bigfoot, with Louie Benson playing it up for big laughs in the lead part. "Bigfoot" was the audience favorite.

* "Late" -- The faces on screen in "Late" will be familiar to any fan of university theater over the last few years, with Nick Cutelli and Cody Heuer getting most of the screen time. Director Joanna Wende creates a plot about a guy who can't get to work on time, even though he lives only a block away. Part stoner comedy, part Larry David. All funny.

* "I Want My PlayStation 3" -- The only documentary of the bunch, directed by Lynelle White, shows the lengths gamers in the St. Louis area went to have one of the first PlayStation 3 systems on the American market.

* "Mere Sentience" -- "Mere Sentience" was, by far, the outstanding film of the night. This short had it all -- a humorous and thought-provoking plot, good acting, great visual storytelling and amazing direction by Steve Turner. Turner co-owns Schrader Turner Films, a company looking at filming a seven-figure budget feature in the area. From watching this film, I'd say Turner has the know-how to pull it off. "Mere Sentience" received the judges' nod for best film.

So after reading this account, you may ask why I'm telling you about these films. There are a few reasons.

The primary purpose of this column is to recognize our local filmmakers for their talents, and to congratulate them for pulling off a successful event. But there's another motive -- maybe something I wrote about one of these films will spark enough interest in you to seek one of these filmmakers out and find out what they're doing for yourself.

Art is everywhere. You just have to look for it.

Matt Sanders is the Arts & Leisure editor for the Southeast Missourian and the editor of OFF Magazine.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: