At 9 a.m. on an overcast Saturday morning, deep in Ellison Hall – the citadel of the UCSB Film Studies Dept. – the organizers of the Reel Loud Film Festival met for this year’s selection day. This is the festival’s 15th year of inspired art and mayhem, and an ambitious body of films culled from a year’s worth of production by our campus’ resident auteurs were up for their judgment day.
The Reel Loud Film Festival is a collection of silent films. The films are shot exclusively on 16mm film, which leaves young filmmakers without the comfort of Final Cut Pro and audiences with actual projected film – somewhat of a lost art in most contemporary student film festivals. Now, silence is not particularly entertaining, so each of these “silent” films features a live accompaniment.
The live performances are an integral part of many films and they are not limited to just music, some of this year’s films feature live ballroom dancing, readings of T.S. Eliot’s poetry and Isla Vista rockers Winslow. The films are all six-and-a-half minutes, which keeps them punchy and to-the-point. Other than the length, sound, film type and accompaniment requirements, Reel Loud’s filmmakers literally work without restrictions in the name of no-holds-barred filmmaking.
This year’s festival theme is “Cinematic Fusion” – a blending of mediums and genres designed to inspire filmmakers to harness the creativity of the festival’s past 14 years and take it to new limits. Judging by the films involved, the festival has succeeded.
Drawn from the diverse elements of our student body, this year’s films vary wildly in style, content and length, just as their creators vary wildly in budget, experience and message. But, all the films are united by a wild exuberance and postmodern wit unique to UCSB. The diversity of the films must be appreciated, as the films switch from sandal and Abercrombie-sporting I.V. residents, to string, spray paint and sock monkey stop-motion, to the black-and-whitewashed walls of a nunnery.
To quote the tagline from one of this year’s finest entries – the quote itself is drawn from the Futurist Manifesto – “A speeding car is more beautiful than the Nike of Samothrace.” For non-art majors, the Nike of Samothrace is a famous Greco-Roman sculpture currently drawing mobs at the Louvre. The energy of these films is candid, bizarre and hilarious, and it is supplemented by live performances of rock, dance, poetry, turntables and more. This energy will be remembered long after the festival has passed. Do not be misled into thinking all of the films are flashy college fun, there are ruminations and messages here that are worth thinking about – a difficult feat for six-and-a-half minute films.
No film festival would be complete without a prize, and Reel Loud offers its own Gold Reel and Best Score awards to the two films that rise above all else. This year’s judging panel includes Santa Barbara Film Festival Director Roger Durling, Los Angeles Asian-American International Film Festival Director Abraham Ferrer and composer Mark Henderson.
There are so many prize-worthy entries. After viewing all of the films, the Reel Loud selection committee had the difficult role of selecting the festival’s lineup. The committee’s concerns were endless. Was the film coherent? Was it provocative? Does the music work? Would it work as well live? After a round of “12 Angry Men” style deliberations – with local film critic/sage DJ Palladino as our Henry Fonda, calmly defending each film – 15 movies were selected to be the body of this year’s festival.
The committee’s work did not stop there. The films then had to be ordered for the screening. For this, a new set of considerations emerged. Films had to be arranged by genre and content, with insight tempering puerile hilarity and the occasional shocker to spice up the more experimental passages. Finally, after five hours of closed congress, the committee returned to the daylight with what, I can personally say, should be one hell of a show.
Cinema is not the only attraction at Reel Loud – the festival’s genre-bending message applies to live acts as well. This year’s show also features the aforementioned Winslow, Los Angeles’ DJ Soulspeak and the Synchronism Project, a multi-media installation piece masterminded by UCSD students Ross Karre and Jeffrey Trevi