runs Sept. 13-15 at Egyptian
THE FIFTH ANNUAL edition of RESFEST, the traveling digital entertainment showcase, offers exactly what you'd expect from a festival featuring lots of fledgling filmmakers dabbling in new technology—a hodgepodge of the daring, the innovative, the indulgent, and the just plain bad. Although some titles dole out an exasperating combination of all of the above, with a bit of patience there is enough here to inspire any film lover or aspiring auteur.
The lure of digital lies first and foremost in its editing possibilities, and most of these short films proudly exhibit an array of cuts, lighting effects, and mixed media that was either not possible, accessible, or affordable with more traditional filmmaking methods. Some works, such as Ari Gold's student Oscar-winning Helicopter, gleefully combine live action, animation, and stop-motion. A lot of the techniques on display here will be familiar to those who watch MTV2 with any regularity; not surprisingly, music videos are the bedrock of the festival. New clips from Gorillaz, Radiohead, Fatboy Slim, and Amon Tobin, among others, will be shown as part of the Cinema Electronica showcase, while prominent video directors will be spotlighted during one of the fest's five shorts programs. Although the other shorts programs are more devoted to narrative, they're by no means short on the absurdist imagery that has become a staple of music videos. (Just imagine all the ways Salvador Dal???ould have sliced up eyeballs with these toys!) Virgil Widrich's Copy Shop—a comical piece about a man who keeps spawning replicas of himself with a copy machine—is a fine example, neatly occupying the space between Dal???nd Spike Jonze.
RESFEST's two feature presentations, though, provide two crucial lessons about the state of digital.
First is that the revolution is cultural. Doug Pray's documentary Scratch follows turntable culture from early hip-hop to today's Turntablism movement, reminding us of the unexpected places technology can go when it's made readily available to the masses. (Don't be surprised if a future RESFEST features a documentary on bedroom filmmakers.)
Second, and most important, is that technology isn't an end in itself. Japan's first all-digital anime, Blood: The Last Vampire, is loaded with stunning background images and cool CGI lighting effects. For these reasons alone, the 45-minute film could quite possibly become a benchmark, but poor storytelling and uninteresting characters will always be a recipe for failure.