Rockport Film Fest 2009 Event Report

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Outside screening of the documentary Chops.

I like film. I like working with film. I like watching films. Most importantly though, I like film. The Rockport Film Festival is, like the name implies, a film festival held in Rockport, Texas. For the past two years I’ve been one of the event photographers which lets me into all of the receptions as well as screenings so I can lurk about and take pictures of people doing things as well as good shots of the drinks and hors d’oeuvres and other refreshments. It’s a great experience because basically I get in for free (after I’ve done my job of course) and have an opportunity to see lots of films I otherwise wouldn’t have the chance to see. People tend to underestimate how cool festivals are, which is a shame. Just because it’s not Sundance doesn’t mean it sucks.
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Pictured above: FOOD.

So what’s this article about since I normally am a humor/satire columnist here? It’s a trip report of sorts of my experiences at the festival; my favorite films, cool folks I met, and what went down. The receptions are always full of a fun atmosphere and this year was no exception, from the Rockport Center for the Arts to Artfluential to Latitude each of the get-togethers was a different experience and a chance to talk to other film enthusiasts in attendance. The food was great and professionally catered and since I had a super powerful camera to fool around with I experimented with all sorts of angles and zooms to give the art center a plethora of images to work with. One of the other photographers was busy taking lots of pictures of people so that left me to have a little fun with non-people photos.

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That bottle wasn’t there a second ago.

One of the cool things about being able to attend all of these screenings and receptions is that you get to meet a bunch of people; some of them are local, some of them are here to work, and some are from out of town who are here for the films. Since I’m the photographer usually I blend in and stealthily dart around with my camera, but every so often someone will take the initiative and stop me for a chat. Now, most of the time they’re folks I’ve known for years who recognize me and pull me aside but every so often it’ll be someone new that I haven’t met before. An example was this artist named Ed who was also a performing magician.  Ed had a number of items on display at the Artfluential gallery made entirely out of the scrap material left over from vinyl decals people make for their cars. Ed gathered up a small crowd and pulled me aside as well to check out some card tricks. I’m pretty sure he only pulled me aside because I had a camera, but I was impressed nonetheless.

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Josh (left) and Beau (right) from ATX Event Systems.

The coolest couple of guys that I ran into though have to be the audio/video technicians from ATX Event Systems. Beau (the owner) and Josh (the intern) don’t really fit the bill for what most people assume a tech crew will be like. I’ve worked with various techy people for all sorts of events, and some of them are kinda cold and not very personable. Not these guys; they were at all of the receptions and were right alongside everyone else meeting and greeting folks. They put a lot of energy into what they do and their experience shows in their work, they were able to fine tune their equipment for the unusual interior design of the venue so that everyone could hear the films clearly as well as keeping on top of everything involving the projectors and blocks of movies. Not one error that I saw, and I was at every movie. Did I mention how awesome they were to chat with by the way? I did? I will say it again then.

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Almost 50 movies were screened at the festival.

That’s enough about the non-film parts of the festival, though. I bet you’re probably here to hear what I thought about the films. Below is my selection of personal favorites along with my thoughts on them.

RiP: A Remix Manifesto: RiP is a film produced by Disinformation who’s basically one of those publishers who are “edgy” and “what the government doesn’t want you to know” which is fine in small doses but at first seemed overwhelming for a 80 minute documentary. I was pleasantly surprised though because RiP turned out to be a very well put together middle finger to the large corporations running around stepping on peoples’ toes for minute claims of “copyright infringement” as well as attempting to ensure mash-up artists like Girl Talk are unable to produce their art. (You can buy RiP here for whatever you feel like paying.)

Placebo: Derek doesn’t sell you drugs. He sells you the experience of buying drugs. Placebo is a story of a “drug dealer” who sells nothing but cold medicine and sugar pills but gives them the appearance of real drugs. He travels to various small towns and colleges duping students into buying his warez under the knowledge that “when you’re drunk, everything is a blur anyways”. The campus police is on his tail, but of course when they arrest Derek and test all of his “drugs”… well, let’s just say there’s no smoking gun.

The Mondavi Gang: It’s Brad’s birthday and he’s at a small gathering with his girlfriend, his best friend, and his best friend’s girlfriend. Brad’s friend wants to “talk politics”. Each of the four members of The Mondavi Gang are drastically different politically and their idle conversations quickly boils down into a heated argument about who is right and who is wrong, who should have won and who really won, and who’s political party is the better option. It’s just dinner as usual for these four. (Official site.)

The One Last Time: It’s the big bank heist, and they’ve got two minutes to get the cash from the vault and escape. Four armed men enter the bank with masks bearing the visages of Wizard of Oz characters and get their goods, however unbeknown to them four more criminals disguised as Marvel Comics superheroes barge in and announce there’s a robbery. The two gangs have a stand-off and demand to know from the janitor who sold them the information if he told anyone else. Just as the stand-off begins four nerds on their way to a Star Wars convention pull up at the bank…

Free Lunch: Walter is a kid who has had all the best opportunities in life simply handed to him, and he’s determined to instead work hard to earn the fruits of real labor. Armed with only a city lunch truck and an apathetic cook named Casey, Walter takes to the streets to live “the American Dream”. After his cook bails on him Walter tries to single handedly carry the weight of his food serving company Walter’s World, and in doing so learns just how much that “free lunch” costs.

The Booby Trap: Doug and Luke are your average young boys, and they’ve stumbled across a breastfeeding video. With high hopes for some booby-goodness they pop the VHS tape into the VCR and are instead shocked at the explicit depictions of human anatomy. In a panic they try to eject the tape and hide it, but alas the tape becomes jammed in the VCR… and even worse, mom is coming home! Luke flees leaving Doug to battle with the VCR on his own; what ensues is hilarity at its finest. This was my second-favorite film, and here is my absolute favorite…

Cattle Call: There is not much I can say about Cattle Call to put an image in your head of exactly what it is, because the 3 images provided in that link don’t do a lot of justice – the only aid in making it more confusing. In an effort to try my best, imagine some high speed yodeling/auctioneering, stop motion insanity, someone in a cow costume, and cowboys with spinning hats. It is incomprehensibly insane and has all the trimmings of an acid trip without having to take the drug. If I would have been able to find a link to it I’d provide it, but sadly I cannot find one.
edit: You can view a short excerpt of the film here.

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The screenings were packed!

If you have never been to a film festival I highly recommend going to one if it’s possible for you. There’s a lot of wonderful film art that simply doesn’t get put into the mainstream media and for a good reason, a lot of it isn’t the “norm”. Every film tells a story and I only showcased my 7 favorites out of the 48 shown. The only way to get a true appreciation for the art is to see it for yourself and try something new for once. There are no Michael Bays or James Camerons here, just regular people with a camera and a story to tell.

– Dracophile

(All photos in this article were taken by me and appear courtesy of the Rockport Center for the Arts.)