I’m not gonna even mention the whole “inactivity” thing. What has is it been since my last post, like a month?? Disgraceful.
(There’s a reason all my friends in high school called me “stagnant,” I guess.)
What we are gonna talk about is my incredible weekend up at UNC-Wilmington for their fourth annual Visions Film Festival and Conference. Woo!
Yes, I was honored to be able to attend the conference as an official selection of the scholarly panel (of 8 fellow scholars). I think I’ve written on here before about the paper I submitted, but here’s the official description on their website:
Murders Unavenged: A Brief Look Into the Realism of the Police Procedural
Christopher LeMaire: University of Florida
LeMaire defines the filmic police procedural as a distinct new subgenre, separating it from its roots in mystery/suspense and film noir. A recent 21st century feat, this emergence of the pure police procedural is revealed through two contemporary films: Memories of Murder (Joon-Ho Bong, 2003) and Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007).
Yooo! I feel so official.
Anyways, no, I didn’t win anything. sniff, sniff. But, in my defense, I was the youngest there of all the scholars and filmmakers. Talk about out of place.
Here’s yours truly delivering an intellectually stimulating speech.
I have several highlights I’d like to just relive here on the Vibes, as Visions took place almost two weeks ago by now.
First, I was basically stunned by how incredible the whole production was. Visions is a film festival and conference put on entirely by undergraduate students at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington. It is entirely organized, fundraised, judged, and coordinated by undergraduate students. I’ve been interested in their film studies program for quite some time because the school synthesizes film production classes with critical theory…which in my opinion, is the most complete and eclectic approach to studying film. (Here’s me excited that UF at least has one film production class.) To my knowledge, the program at UNC-W is the only undergraduate major in the country that does this, so you can imagine my excitement to actually meet these people.
Turns out they’re even more awesome than I thought.
I’ve never been in such an extreme collective environment where literally everyone has the same mindset: film, film, and more film. I’d meet one person and end up talking about Tarkovsky, then turn to another to discuss Sam Brakhage, and another about Truffaut. They are truly, sincerely passionate. And that’s a very nice change from the film students I’ve met in the past, where film discussion often involves the newest episode of The Walking Dead.
But, as I started to say, the whole production was incredible. A full day of films and presentations from around the globe. It felt like a vacation.
Before I mention my favorite scholars and filmmakers, I would like to brag a bit more about my private tour of SCREEN GEMS STUDIOS. Yeah, it was pretty awesome. UNC-W had us covered.
Screen Gems is the largest movie studios on the east coast (second to LA). They actually filmed Iron Man 3, along with several other big productions.
I wasn’t allowed to take pics inside, but here’s a big hint as to what’s currently on the lot:
Now to briefly go over my highlights of the actual event:
Of the eight scholars, three really blew me away, and here’s the official bios:
Going Around the World in The Lady from Shanghai: Transmedia Adaptation in the Work of Orson Welles
Vincent Longo: University of Michigan
The Lady from Shanghai (1947) is typically considered an archetypical noir film and one of Orson Welles’s crowning cinematic achievements, yet it also encompasses many elements drawn from Around the World, the Broadway musical Welles had staged the previous year. In turn, this presentation explores the similarities and the relationship between these two seemingly polarized productions.
The “Unfilmable” Lightness of Being?
Brandon Konecny: UNC Wilmington
This presentation examines Philip Kaufman’s filmic adaptation of Milan Kundera’s highly idiosyncratic The Unbearable Lightness of Being: A Novel. By considering the film under the stylistic rubric of the essay film, it attempts to reconcile Kaufman’s curious adaptive decisions and suggest that there is more to this work than its surface appearance.
Gaspar Noé & Techniques of Looking
Conor Boyle: Brooklyn College
In his films Irréversible and “We F— Alone,” Gaspar Noé employs technical stylization to challenge patriarchal genre expectations. This paper examines specific techniques employed and their implications for feminist analysis of the two films.
Starting with the first presentation, Vince’s research has taken him from Michigan, to Indiana, to New York, and to Italy. He basically was the first to discover the similarities between Orson Welle’s The Lady From Shanghai and the Broadway production of Around the World. The play is relatively unknown and found through intensive archival research, so I was in awe. The paper he presented on at Visions (which he’s already presented in 34 locations around the world) was actually an excerpt from a 150 page thesis that he is currently expanding into a book. Unsurprisingly, he took home the audience choice award. It truly was an honor to meet him. So much advice.
Brandon’s essay on The Unbearable Lightness of Being was a complex analysis of the film’s essayist relations to the Czech book. Without admitting that I entirely understood all of it, his presentation was mind blowing. I’m ready to pick up a copy of both the book and the misunderstood film.
Conor’s presentation was on a subject I would never really seek out. I in no way endorse the films, but Conor had the best presentation overall, balancing careful examination with thought-provoking analysis. He deservedly won the coveted scholar award.
On to films…
I can’t believe how much they blew me away. And it was no surprise the accolades pinned on several of them, including endorsements from PBS, third place at Cannes, feature in Cucalorus, winner of a Student Oscar, and a feature in American Cinematographer Magazine.
Starting with the documentary category, the one that certainly stood out was Jon Kasbe’s Heartbeats of Fiji, which actually closed out the night. For one, Jon’s film was simply stunning, from the incredible camerawork, to the simple fact that PBS had him shoot in Fiji. The documentary follows two individuals experiences at Fiji’s Beat Making Lab, which trains youth in the “art of beatmaking.” From my understanding, this is the first episode of a series, so I am excited to see more. Good music, talented individuals, and beatiful visuals. What more does a documentary need?
Heartbeats of Fiji
As I literally know nothing of the art of animation, Prague filmmaker, Matus Vlzar’s animated short Pandy was one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen. Wildly creative and detailed, the short follows a slothful panda trapped in man’s zoo. There are moments of pure hilarity, confusion, and squirming discomfort. It is certainly not a children’s short. I’m just a sucker the type of animation that makes you laugh just looking at it.
Last up is the narrative category. Not only did the filmmaker, Zach Wechter, take home the Visionary award (first place of the entire festival and conference), but his film closely related in genre to my presentation. So, this 25-minute “short” film, Straight Down Low, was definitely the highlight of the day for me. An accurate excerpt on the Visions website summarizes: “Straight Down Low is a neo-noir set in the inner city. A shrewd high school detective must solve a curious gangland crime to protect the girl he loves.” A well-executed modern day neo-noir. What could be better? On the film’s facebook page, I think Zach lists Brick (2005) as an inspiration, which is a beautiful example. The film is perfectly casted, scripted, stylized, edited, and shot–basically everything I could ever want in a short film. I’ll be looking for his name, I’m confident there’s much more to come.
Straight Down Low
I guess this explains why he looked familiar.
Totally awesome, unexpected weekend that I am honored to have been a part of. And, definitely the highlight of my semester. I look forward to seeing how the Visions programs expands in the future. Thank you to all who were involved.
Q&A Session Left to right: Me, Vincent Longo, Caleb Ward, Dallis Covey, Tyler Davis