Make it snappy
Short Attention Span Festival not quite short enough
If modernity suffers from the problem of too much speed, of thought reduced to the duration of sound bytes and instant messages, then the Short Attention Span Film & Video Festival is not part of the solution.
The 2001 festival, the ninth such compilation, offers 59 films of two minutes or less. The beauty of the format is that if you don't like a movie, another will be along in less time than the average TV commercial break.
The trouble with this particular festival is that you may not be any more fond of the ones that follow. With so many contributions from so many artists, the Short Attention Span Festival gives a multiplicity of ideas but only a handful of inspired, memorable works.
Given the time constraints, many of the films make their impressions using animation or special video effects, some abstract, some humorous. David Poole offers two very funny, deadpan computer-animated shorts, one with a pig learning his career opportunities, the other with one cat teaching another how to react to a visitor at the door.
One of the most ingenious shorts, Michael Reich's "Concerto di Scissore," provides a kind of stop-motion ballet using different sets of scissors: Reich gets points for sheer effrontery by providing his short with a completely superfluous intermission. Yoshihisa Nakanishi's "Lady ... Go!" also uses stop-motion to portray a woman as a high-speed superheroine, while "Roof Sex" by PES shows plush chairs engaged in carnal activities.
Two of the best pieces feature the work of artists from other media. David Weir's "Night Shift" depicts computer-animated mechanisms accompanying an oddly lyrical text piece by novelist Douglas Coupland. "Testify" features a montage from Michael "Roger & Me" Moore, pointing out the similarities between candidates George Bush and Al Gore, set to a head-bobbing Rage Against the Machine song. "Testify" amounts to a get-out-the-Nader-vote video, but it's a lively piece of work.
The politics of the festival tend to the collegiate, with some making rather thudding "statements." Three black-and-white shorts feature "The Black Beret Duo," funny-voiced fellows wearing huge false eyes over their real ones, and reciting doggerel so portentous it's difficult to tell if they're kidding or what. More clever, but hardly subtle, are Johnathan Amitay's three animated satires on "Sesame Street" lessons: His look at the number "5" spotlights five electric chairs, one frying an innocent.
A few intriguing pieces draw on interviews or documentary approaches, like Erik Adigard's "Webdreamer," in which several young people describe dreams about computers or the Internet. The animated "Talk Ink" has similar folks talking about their tattoos or piercings, but their words are spoken by animated figures, including actual tattoos or cows with brands and tags. (Filmmaker Aaron Crumb was likely inspired by the cartoon "Creature Comforts.") "Exotic World" offers a genuine documentary profile of a former burlesque performer, while in the droll "Peekaboo Sunday" the owner of some miniature horses wants to show off her pets — only they refuse to cooperate.
The Cartoon Network provides what amounts to a commercial for its new series "Samurai Jack," a bouncy Shonen Knife video about the Powerpuff Girls, and a funny station promo with various superheroes out for a night at the movies. While they're perfectly fine as shorts, considering that the Cartoon Network is one of the festival's sponsors, they feel like productplacement.
Out of self-indulgence or sheer desperation, several shorts simply show people or animals hanging around outdoors while quirky music plays. "Now Show Yours" displays a couple's genitals, while "Shakey Face," "Snip-Hop" and "Excuse Me" take footage of heads or bodies and tamper with them, like a hip-hop DJ sampling a piece of music. The festival's final short is "Excuse Me," and with its shuddering face and hammering music, it can't end fast enough.
Several contributions are affiliated with the Savannah College of Art and Design (another sponsor), and in fact, watching the 2001 Short Attention Span Film & Video Festival makes you feel very much like a film class professor, grading your students' final projects before the end of term. Only a few here will end up on the honor roll.
The 2001 Short Attention Span Film & Video Festival will be held at Aug. 24 at 8 p.m. at The Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, 535 Means St., 404-688-1970 and Sept. 14-15 at 9 p.m. and midnight at GSU's cinefest. www.shortspan.com.??