"Have you ever seen a one minute movie?"

Film One Fest

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


            Have you ever seen a one minute film? Festival director Robert O’Connor and assistant director Julie Gartenberg showed sixty of them in July at the first annual Film One Fest in Atlantic Highlands, NJ. They took the risk that filmmakers would send submissions and audiences would like what they saw. They were right.
            Submissions arrived from Australia, France, Switzerland, Croatia, the United Emirates, Norway, Los Angeles, and points in between. They have served notice that this genre is bubbling up and asking for attention. The question people ask is, “What can you do in just one minute?” And the answer is: plenty.

            It is an old truth that power accrues to ideas that are presented simply; yes, you can get to the hub of something important in one minute. Take, for example, the prize winning “Escape,” (Brad &Daniel Porter/Smith), a beautifully filmed juxtaposition of a soldier dealing with the primal aspects of war and a civilian working with the basics of growing things in the earth. Destruction and new life, inextricably bound by similarity.

            Or take “Sisyphus,” (Robyn Simms, Los Angeles) where a diapered toddler pushes a stool around his house to the theatrical voice over of a narrator who relates perfectly fitting fragments to the myth of Sisyphus pushing his rock up the hill. Within one minute the audience is laughing heartily while pondering the meaning of the Greek myth. Focus entirely on that rock.

            Think also about the power of animation to make a point. “Written by Ghandi” (Joseph Spaid, New York) uses basic cartoon characters to illustrate Ghandi’s wisdom. The simplicity of the drawings and their expressions deliver the punch. “Scenes from a Rooftop” (Paul Johannessen, Norway) makes clever use of available tools to present progressive, quicktime scenes of con struction men building a road. The effectiveness of technique.

            O’Connor, Gartenberg and their capable crew knew something else: how to do it. With a majestic assist from the weather, they set the festival right next to the Atlantic Highlands harbor, hard by the vast expanse of Raritan Bay. They filled the field with wandering entertainers who amused early comers until darkness fell over 500 or more people who were now comfortably sprawled on lawn chairs and blankets listening to a band on a flat bed truck. The movies played wonderfully on a huge inflatable screen that became a metaphor of sorts: ready for the illusion, courtesy of an air compressor, collapsed on the truck bed with the pull of a plug. The illusion of movies.

            In the controlling doctrine of available time and space, a professor will expand his idea to fill an hour while I will expand mine to fill a 500 word column. A one minute film strips an idea to its core and sends an arrow straight to the center of its target. We all knew we had seen something new that night. Film One Fest is here to stay.


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