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1 Min. Film Fest Worth the Time

Short format proves friendly for novice filmmakers

By Rebecca J. Levitan, Contributing Writer

When was the last time you got to see 106 movies in one night? If you went to Le: 60 Film Fest, you’d have had that chance at least once. Lumen Eclipse, the public art project responsible for the festival, held the event on the newly constructed Palmer Street on Oct. 4. Over the course of four hours, audience members watched band Pants Yell!, sampled free appetizers from the Border Café, and, of course, watched 100 films. The catch? Each film was at most one minute in length.

Although the format lent itself to films that were more experimental than the average movie, they proved to be fairly similar to what the audience was used to watching. After all, videos of this length are not entirely foreign; most YouTube clips are little more than one minute in length, and many movie previews endeavor to capture the entire sense of a film in less than a minute.

Most films centered on an object or a short series of images. People, when featured, were usually treated as additional objects. Very few of the films featured dialogue, although those that did were memorable. One example popular with the audience was Matthew Thompson’s “Jell-O,” in which a husband reveals to his wife that he is gay; she responds that she is a werewolf.

Even with the large number of films from varied backgrounds, many of them relied on the same techniques and started to blend together. Stop-motion and fast-forwarding effects were popular with filmmakers trying to pack more time into 60 seconds, and much of the music seemed to come from the same new-age soundtrack with the requisite beeps and static.

Not surprisingly, the one-minute format was better at capturing small moments than complex concepts. “About a minute is a good amount of time for a sort of visual gag,” audience member Diana G. Kimball ’09 said. “A minute isn’t a very good length of time for subtlety.” The most successful films were those that didn’t attempt to capture anything grand but instead focused on something quirky and interesting.

But there were exceptions. Sharif Abdunnur’s film “Hot Summer in Beirut,” which dealt with the 2006 Lebanon War, garnered some of the loudest applause, demonstrating that it is possible to tackle larger issues within the limitations of the format.

Lumen Eclipse’s aim is to “bring art to the streets,” according to Kate H. Hale, the project’s program director. This has previously taken the form of two video screens that show motion art each night outside the T stop in Harvard Square. In holding the festival, Lumen Eclipse hoped to expand the programming of the organization and attract a broader audience. They received 200 submissions from 19 countries, which judges whittled down to the 106 shown at the festival. The entries varied greatly in terms of sophistication—but that was exactly what the organizers were looking for.

“We hoped the one-minute film festival would be a more approachable format to people who haven’t made a lot of films,” Hale says.

Forty-eight of the entries were from local artists, including Kristina R. Yee ’10, whose piece, “No Water, No Moon,” won the award for best local entry. Originally created as a four-and-a-half minute animation, Yee’s adaptation of a Zen short story lent itself to the short form. “The thing about Zen short stories is that they are so concise in and of themselves that they demand the filmmaker to be concise,” Yee says.

With a total audience of about 500, the attendance at the festival met organizers’ expectations, and Lumen Eclipse hopes that the festival will be the first of many. “I think the best part was just standing there watching the films and seeing the whole space filled with people who were engaged in the work,” Hale says.

Not every film was a masterpiece, but that did not detract from the overall festival. After all, they had 106 chances to get it right.

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