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I had the honor of Judging the San Jose 48 Hour Film Project again this year. I love the energy these teams being to creating films over the course of a weekend, and while the films tended towards the weak in the days when folks were submitting them en masse to Cinequest (2004 or so), the quality now rivals a lot of what we see in festival short programs. This year, we got a set of films that were phenomenal, and I'm going to be writing a few of them up.
The winner of Best Film was Stonewood. It's one of those films that is genre, but in a way that you only slowly wake up to. It's a horror film. Or maybe a science fiction film. Or perhaps a party film. Or maybe it's a drama. From the first first frame, there's a disquieting sense of off-ness about it, something is strange, even in the rather simple party that's going on. When I watched it for the 5 time, I started to note the way the camera lingers, maybe only an inch off of center, producing shots that are weighted to one side or another. That is such a simple trick, and one that gives the film a heft.
And then there's Dana Morgan.
The winner of Best Actress, she drives this film by going from being Mrs. Dalloway to Jamie Leigh Curtis in Halloween in the blink of an eye. It's amazing how she portrays her fear, terror, and perhaps her revoltion of being trapped. You'll understand when you watch what I mean. She powers this film into the meat, and her performance is genre excellence!
There are inherent dangers in 48 Hour films. Sometimes, to fit in the required elements, there's a crowbarring that happens. Some filmmakers make this work for them (mostly in the comedies), and if I have to look up what the elements are afterwards because they were so seamlessly integrated, that's a great sign, and that's what happened here. There's the length, for one thing. Short by both necessity and rule, these films sometimes have to rush through material to make it happen. Luckily, here the turn happens quickly, hitting hard, though leaving less time for impact. It barely matters because what we get is a combination of precise editing, intelligent shooting, great acting, a smart script, and just a good, simple, genre storytelling. The perfect 48 Film Project project!
Klaus at Gunpoint
A Film Journal dedicated to all film.A segment of Office Supply Publishing.