Your Film Festival via YouTube

Two years ago, Ridley Scott, the Oscar-nominated filmmaker, produced Life in a Day, a documentary that was crowd-sourced. Everything in it was provided from people solicited to submit content via YouTube. From January to March of this year, Scott again solicited content via YouTube, but this time the individual submissions weren't going to be combined into one documentary. Instead, the submissions would compete against each other at Your Film Festival for a grand prize of $500,000 to produce a new work with Ridley Scott and Michael Fassbender, as well as a trip to the Venice Film Festival, which starts on August 29th.

Each submission had to be 15 minutes or less. It could be any genre, fiction or nonfiction. Even webisodes and TV pilots were accepted. From April to June, the submissions were narrowed to 50 semifinalists and from June to July, voting began to create a list of 10 finalists. That list was announced August 1st. After watching all 50 of the semi-finalists, which in total were over nine hours worth of material, I picked out 21 that I really enjoyed. Of those 21, only three made it to the finalists' list. The other seven finalists are interesting films but for one reason or another those seven didn't work for me. In alphabetical order, I want to go through those seven and explain why.

88:88 by Joey Ciccoline is a sci-fi film about alien abduction. It has great visuals and special effects but I feel like it doesn't tell a whole story. It's more or less a scene out The X-Files. Bat Eyes by Damien Power doesn't really tell a whole story either, at least not one that I could fathom. Cine Rincao by Fernando Grostein Andrade & Fernanda Fernandes tells a true story, but it's broad strokes with huge jumps. El General by Diego Pino has a ridiculously horrible ending. Scruples by Adrian Powers also has a ridiculously horrible ending. The Drought by Kevin Slack is boring and This Time by Remy El-Gabry is too depressing.

The finalists didn't include any of the documentaries submitted, but there were two films submitted that did tell true stories in fiction form that are worth knowing, regardless if they win or not. One was Cine Rincao, which I've already mentioned. The other was North Atlantic by Bernardo Nascimento, which was inspired by the last events of pilot James Compston. It's about a friendship that develops between two men over radio and radar.

Super. Full. by Niam Hani is the submission from Lebanon. It's a sweet movie, almost too sweet, but sweet in the way that you have two people in a bad situation where things get worse for one of them but a simple, happy moment, a silver lining leaves you with a sense of gratification. It's not balanced and feels more like appeasement but not enough appeasement.

Out of the 10 finalists, the one I think should win is The Guilt by David Victori Blaya. His was one of several short films from Spain. It's categorized as sci-fi. It involves a man seeking revenge, which might be a hackneyed premise, but this movie has a great visual motif that's used to great effect with great performances and great energy that makes a lot of the other shorts seem dull by comparison.

Before I reveal the movies that are my personal finalists, I wanted to note some titles from my 21 favorites that are honorable mentions. Two animated movies were certainly honorable mentions. The first is Stop. Watch. Love. by Brad Herbert. It's stop-motion, mostly of miniatures, along with some CGI. The premise is the same as the Oscar-nominated short Cashback (2004). There's also an interesting credits sequence with the words superimposed on the sides of buildings. On My Doorstep by Anat Costi was the animated film from Israel. It's extremely more imaginative, using watercolors and a style more akin to Bill Plympton to tell the story of a woman agoraphobe.

There are four other honorable mentions that are live action and the reason they're honorable is because of four, individual acting performances within them. Two women and two men really stood out. In Cortometraje Teta y Sopa by Alberto Gómez from Spain, we get an affecting turn of a prostitute into a restaurant cook, played by Nuria López Blanca. In The Child (La Guagua) by Sebastian Mantilla, again from Spain, the movie feels like the first act to an even longer story but has a great sense of character and setting and features a desperate and lost woman named Tania willing to go to an extreme in order to survive. She's played amazingly by Cristina Coral.

In Sold by John Irwin from the USA, the perspective was mostly from a woman locked in the trunk of a car. Yet, the brief appearance of Jesse Garcia was enough to get my attention. Garcia made a splash, giving a great performance in an independent film called Quinceañera (2006). Since then he has done a wide range of things, including another bold indie film A Beautiful Life (2008), the production of The Pee-Wee Herman Show on Broadway (2011) and a role in the mega-blockbuster The Avengers (2012). However, the best performance from an actor in all of these short films came in Turkish Coffee by Thiago Luciano from Brazil. Rodrigo Feldman, who also co-wrote the screenplay, stars as a lonely and highly embattled soldier in an unknown country, patrolling the bombed out streets for terrorists and suspecting that a woman whom he follows home might be one. Feldman conveys the fear, the frustration, the fixation and ultimately the futility of his characters's situation in such a powerhouse fashion.

My top ten short films of the Your Film Festival via YouTube are ones that are bold, experimental, surprising, emotionally effective or just extremely entertaining. I found it difficult to rank them, so I listed them in alphabetical order. Enjoy!

1.   AISHA'S SONG by Orlando von Eisiedel - this documentary is wondrous and inspiring and nothing short of fantastic. Aisha is a 18-year-old girl from Nigeria who is the subject here and she tells her incredible story of struggle and overcoming. What is impressive is the rhythm and music with which the images are edited. It's not just music put on the soundtrack underneath. The images and natural sound within them create a rhythm and music all their own.

2.   BENCH SEAT by Anna Mastro - it's a musical centering on a couple parked in a car on top of "lover's lane" where the girl is supremely neurotic and rambles about getting dumped by her ex-boyfriend, all the while her current boyfriend is also trying to dump her.

3.   DAS TUB by James Cunningham - this is the film from the lecturer at the Media Design School in New Zealand and the title is an obvious reference to the Oscar-nominated, Wolfgang Petersen film but there's humor and a twist that's straight out of The Twilight Zone, a la "Five Characters in Search of an Exit" that I loved.

4.   DOORHANDLE THOUGHTS by Carlos Crespo Arnold - from Spain, this movie imagines what it would say if the door handle of a nice bathroom were alive. The filmmaker then crafts a well-written and well-photographed sequence of events that are just funny and beautiful and insightful, very insightful.

5.   DR. GRORDBORT PRESENTS: THE DEADLIEST GAME by James Cunningham - the second film by the same filmmaker from New Zealand is a sci-fi comedy that takes the form of a 1930s African safari but set on an alien planet.

6.   EBONY SOCIETY by Tammy Davis - also from New Zealand, an unlikely Santa Claus and Rudolph sneak into someone else's home on Christmas Eve and hang out.

7.   GOOD PRETENDER by Maziar Lahooti - from Australia, Ally is a 11-year-old girl who likes Terminator 2 so much that she pretends to be Arnold Schwarzenegger's character and tells the neighborhood boys that her mom is like Sarah Connor but that her dad is an actual robot. The older boys tease her harshly and dare her to prove it.

8.   LA CARTA by Angel Manuel Soto - from Puerto Rico, this movie was a sheer, heartwarming delight. It focuses on a little boy who sees a girl at his school. He sees something about her that he likes or wants, so he decides to write a letter, a love letter. Where it goes from there was just a surprise, a very moving one.

9.   THE OBSTACLE by Maxim Neafit Bujnicki - this black-and-white film in 4:3 from Ukraine is based on the story of the same name by Daniil Kharms. Kharms is a Soviet-era surrealist, absurd humor poet and dramatist. He was very avaunt-garde but he wrote works mainly for children. Not only is this short a representation of that, it's also very much a tribute.

10. WICKATE by Niralji Ravishanker - this horror film from Malaysia is also in black-and-white and also features some surrealism and absurd humor. It has highly stylized and kinetic cinematography and editing. It builds great tension and features an effect at the end that was pretty awesome.


  1. Thanks for a thorough overview! I like your personal picks.
    The organizers of the competition won't release any voting statistics, hardly surprising given the unbalanced and irrational traffic some of the videos got.
    For instance, "88:88" got huge traffic from, and "This time" had about 250,000 more views than the average.
    "Secular Quarter 3" (My short), had 40,000 views at the time voting began, as it has been online for more than a year prior to the contest and made some wind early 2011 - so even the starting point wasn't leveled.

    Ultimately, the voting process had very little to do with quality, as your own opinions attest - and instead of trusting that the best film will win, many of the participating directors had to turn into social media publicity monsters. At times it felt very exploitative.


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