Thursday, December 18, 2014

AIFF 2014: Reflections On This Year's Festival From Jim Parker and From Me

The festival activities are now over (well, as I write this there are still people in the Alaska Experience Theater watching the last movie in Best of the Fest).  Let me take a first stab at some of my reactions to this festival.  But first, here's Jim Parker, Director of Film Programming, talking on Dec. 13, about how the festival was going for him.

Jim has been really great to work with as a blogger trying to get information about the festival this year and in previous years.  So I'm not at all happy with the news that he's moving to North Carolina, but he did say he hopes to be up for the festival next year.

Now, my thoughts:

1.  Technical Issues

I experienced fewer technical glitches and I didn't hear about them from others.  There were a couple of times when the wrong film began to play, but it  was quickly fixed.  I don't know about any showings that had to be canceled because the the film was in a format that particular theater couldn't play or other technical problems.

I'm still hoping they'll have a way to play movies without the audience seeing the computer screen as the projectionist (can we still use that term?) goes through the list of films and then clicks the right one.  (And while part of me likes the transparency of that, another part would like the film to just come on without us seeing under the hood.)

2.  The Festival Trailer

We've had good ones in the past, but no matter how good they were, after seeing them about four or five times (they're played before each film), they tended to get tiresome.  This year's trailer incorporated clips from about 20 different films in the festival and had music that I enjoyed hearing each time it played. I never got bored watching this one and I watched it a lot of times. And I enjoyed the care with which the clips were edited and how the music worked with the video - especially as it went to the clip from Taking My Parents To Burning Man.  Each time, I could identify a clip from one more movie I'd seen.

2014 Anchorage International Film Festival Teaser from Anchorage Int'l Film Festival on Vimeo.

3.  The Venues

The Museum and the Alaska Experience Theater are a five minute walk from each other.  That was good.  The Bear Tooth had no films the second weekend this year.  I never made it to the library or the Alaska Community Works.  Perhaps ride share boards could be put up in the venues for people looking for a ride to get to another showing.  For the most part, the volunteers seemed to be good at getting rides for visiting film makers, but others could have used some help too.  The Bear Tooth had good lighting for film makers doing Q&A after the films.  In the past, I've had to settle for sound only because the stage was too dark for video.  The sound had an echo up front, but when I moved back and to the middle it was better.  Mike at the Bear Tooth was great, and the Alaska Experience Theater staff was doing a lot more too - like food and drinks.  They also had a scanner for pass holders which made getting tickets much faster.  And they had 'real' tickets.

4.  The Films

Overall, I thought we've had stronger fields in the past.  There were plenty of good films.  Animation and Narrative Shorts were strong, but there was only one program of animated films.  There were a lot more Alaska films and they got audiences.  I only got to see two - but one, The Empty Chair, was really, really good.  The films offered a very diverse set of experiences and points of view.  And as much as I complain about not being able to see everything, that's not really a bad thing.  I'll talk more about the films I liked in a later post. [UPDATE:  Dec. 29:  Here's my list of favorites compared to the festival awards - and comments on the features.  I'm working on the documentaries.]  One word that came to me throughout, and I heard from others, was "editing."  A lot of films seemed to go on too long.  It's hard to cut up your baby, but it often makes a better film.

5.  Scheduling

With so many films shown in different locations, it's impossible to make a perfect schedule. But I'd like it to be not only possible, but relatively easy, to see all the films in competition in any one category.  Animation:  no problem.  They were all in one program.  Narrative Shorts?  Much harder.  Thursday had all three programs playing.  You could watch the Love and Pain program and then the Mixed Bag program.  But the Global Village overlapped the other two.  And the Mixed Bag program only played once.  You had to carefully read the program in advance to see that the only way to see all the Narrative Shorts was to go to the first Global Village program the first weekend.

I wasn't able to see all the documentaries in competition, but I think I could have, if I sacrificed seeing those of another category.

A little more attention to timing would have helped a couple of times.  One night there was an hour gap between films at the Bear Tooth.  The next night the gap was 75 minutes.  They could have put in most of a shorts program in the gap.  Or had some film discussions for the audience members who were staying for the next film.

6.  Visiting Film Makers

There were lots of them and it was great hearing them after their films and talking to them in between films.  It would be nice if they had badges that labeled them as film makers so that audience members could know more easily.

Those are just some off the top of my head thoughts that I wanted to get down before I forget them.

And Bye Jim, we're going to miss you.

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