Throwing a pie in someone’s face is always a good way to get your message across. So is making a film. And tonight’s Lost Film Festival proves it. Promoting itself as the anti-Hollywood and anti-CNN on its website, the Lost Film Festival — which was founded in 1999 — is sometimes repetitive, but generally delivers creativity and surprise. Although it has more films on its roster, eight will screen at Yale.
The Festival’s first example of the piefighting theme, “Piefight ’69”, introduces the anti-Hollywood ethos of the festival with a bang. Although it gets off to a slow start, the main action of the movie is just plain delicious, bad pun intended.
In 1969 a group calling themselves Grand Central Station staged a piefight against the uppercrust filmgoers (bad pun intended again) at the San Francisco International Film Festival to protest the festival’s commercial interests. In the film’s eight minute running time, directors Christian Bruno and Sam Green showcase recently uncovered footage of the “infamous” piefight.
Though the film does have a deeper point, it is also an excuse to watch the greatest food fight of all time. Just imagine the members of Grand Central Station, dressed up in costumes as nuns, police, football players and monkeys no less, attacking the high society of San Francisco with pies of all flavors. Cream pies, cherry pies, one poor guy covered in blueberry filling. A red carpet, late sixties hair and clothing — all covered in pie. A must-see.
The Film Festival’s second pie incident comes midway in “The Horribly Stupid Stunt (Which Has Resulted in his Untimely Death),” a political film that is very funny, but could have been even funnier. This sixteen minute film follows the course of a prank pulled by the Yes Men, an anti-capitalist group. By running a fake website, member Andy Bichelbaum gets the opportunity to impersonate a WTO representative at an international conference in Austria. There is an especially funny montage near the beginning of the film, and Bichelbaum/Bichilbauer’s actual speech is hilarious. His off-color jokes about the banana crisis and the working habits of Italians push the joke just right.
The comedic force driving this film is the absurdity of the entire situation — the impersonation, the pie. Without doing much of anything, Bichelbaum and his fellow Yes Men could have a worthwhile film just because of the prank they have managed to pull off. Really, just a knowing look at the camera every once in a while would suffice.
But they give far more than just a knowing look, with mixed results. There are plenty of places where the joke goes too far. By the end of the film, the conference attendees, instead of being simply ignorant, become mistaken victims of an attack meant for the WTO. The Yes Men themselves recognize this unfortunate turn, but their attempt to repair it at the very end doesn’t seem adequate.
“Sean Connery Golf Project” could very well have suffered the same problems as “Horribly Stupid Stunt.” But, by picking the large corporation Sony (instead of individual conference members) as a target, filmmakers Sara Rimensnyder and Rhys Southan give their film a decidedly different feel.
“We are an active audience. We’re not a passive audience,” Southan says, capturing the spirit of the film. Indeed, passive they are not. Failed screenwriters themselves, Rimensnyder and Southan sneak into Sony’s studios, steal a script (hence the name “Sean Connery Golf Project”), rewrite it, and replace it for the original, all the while exuding a kind of childlike idealism that belies the bitterness such an act would otherwise suggest.
The highlight of the film has to be Ithream, the random old man and struggling actor they meet on the street. His cameo, if you can call it that, is priceless. Sporting a battered newsboy cap and huge sunglasses, he rolls his own cigarettes and gives the filmmakers encouragement for their prank. “If you’ve got that kind of talent, go for it,” he says.
Go for it they did. Their enthusiasm is endearing; Southan compares them to modern day Robin Hoods. The few criticisms of this film are negligible — mostly the film could have benefitted from more thorough editing. And, just in case you were beginning to feel a little pity for Sony, Rimensnyder stumbles across a pre-release copy of “Riding in Cars with Boys” just in time.
The last two films that were previewed, “The Manipulators” and “Anarchy Carpet,” are both very, very short, but the similarities end there. “The Manipulators,” a ridiculously cool animation piece by Clare Rojas and Andrew Jeffrey Wright, speaks volumes about media manipulation and societal beliefs in just two minutes. Flipping through a Marie Claire magazine, Rojas and Wright animate the ads with their own additional drawings. From simple moustaches to more intricate snakes and birds, these are the doodles you never had the artistic ability to make. Each page brings a new drawing, creative and exciting.
No matter what their faults are, in the end these movies are fun to watch. The energy behind all of these movies is infectious and the filmmakers bring new perspectives both to filmmaking and to political issues. If these five short films are any indication, the Lost Film Festival will offer a diverse and thought-provoking selection that may occasionally bore, but ultimately will not disappoint.