For those who don't know the i48 gimmick, here's a primer: the i48 Film Festival is a 48-hour film competition for Idaho filmmakers. Participating teams had 48 hours (this year, April 22 at 6 p.m. to April 24 at 6 p.m.) to write, produce, cast, shoot and edit an original four- to seven-minute short film in an assigned category (drama, comedy, western, horror/suspense, science fiction or action). As if the 48-hour time frame wasn't restriction enough, i48 organizers had another device up their sleeve: Each movie had to incorporate particular elements into the film, including certain names (Shannon Colgate or Chris Morgan); lines of dialogue ("I do this periodically" or "How do you want to work this?") and props (a bowling pin; a goldfish or a can of Italia tomato sauce).
For the second annual 2005 i48, 39 teams turned in completed films. All films were screened on April 30 at the Flicks, with a "Best Of i48" gala screening and awards ceremony on May 1 at the Egyptian Theatre. There were 14 movies showcased at Sunday's event and the place was packed with (what appeared to be) enthusiastic i48-ers and their friends and families, all eager to see their movies again on the big screen and, perhaps, to take home an award in the novice or open judging categories. But as i48 organizer Andrew Ellis said at the top of the show, the competition is almost incidental-the real fun should've been in those 48 hectic hours when the films were actually made.
That being said, it's natural i48 participants want to see their work and want their work to be seen-even if it was mostly by other i48 veterans. There was a good-natured air to Sunday's screening. Everyone clapped vigorously for each movie and you could hear the filmmakers and their friends anticipate favorite parts of their own films with appreciative laughter. As a viewer, it was interesting to see the varying levels of success moviemakers had in incorporating the restrictions; kind of a distracting little puzzle to work out while watching the films.
Films that worked the best had a goofy, humorous air-entries like Fishing Cousins (with its a self-consciously Walker, Texas Ranger vibe), A Separation of Greens (very saucy) and Blood from a Turnip (with its stylized, black and white and Soylent Green overtones). It's incredibly difficult to pull off anything serious under the restricted conditions of the i48 competition.
A startling exception to that statement would be the screening's final film, Separation (the winner of Best Film in the open division). With grainy visuals lending an automatic air of respectability excellent audio quality and a simple, spare idea, Separation was at once claustrophobic and puzzling. Plus, it was actually frightening.
"The Best of i48" wasn't a screening of all the award winners. In order to keep a level of (completely unnecessary) suspense, some of Sunday's films were award winners; some were not. Thus the prizewinners whose films weren't in the "best of the fest" missed out a bit on the fun, and attendees missed out on a few of what festival organizers themselves deemed award-worthy.
A festival like i48 isn't something you attend to see a polished, incubated bit of filmmaking. What's fun and fresh about i48 is it's lack of polish, or more specifically-it's seeing what these filmmakers come up with under duress. Among the 14 films, there were definite differences in sound quality, cinematography, acting, production and editing, but everyone seemed to give it their best effort and the results were (perhaps surprisingly) quite good. Everyone-participants and viewers alike-is surely looking forward to next year.
For full awards results, see this week's A&E News.