It's cheap and easy to make high-definition video and turn it into something palatable these days. My buddy did so with the famous Go Pro camera and a few hours of snowboarding. The technique isn't there (and neither are his moves) but it's crystal-clear footage the human eye can't even fully process. Add a little lossless audio and out goes the multi-million dollar contracts and in comes the self-gratification of accelerated YouTube culture. Indie films have exploded like fireworks over our young century, and not all the lights have been so pretty. Lucky for Missoula, we've got a filter more valuable than that $200 ultraviolet haze cutter you throw on your lens just for kicks.
Angelo Lavo has a treat for the movie lover, and a real feast for the film fanatic. The University of Montana grad and founder of the local Devils Theater film production company will present selections from Future Shorts and two additional short films this weekend. The year-old network of indie film screenings is an international festival, with quarterly series picked up by film companies and enthusiasts in every city you can think of. Like Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. Or Edinburgh. Or Missoula, thanks to Lavo.
Like short stories, short films use small spaces to paint big pictures of humanity and art. Though some of the Future Shorts walk the art house line, there's nothing overly cinematic for the average viewer or anything too trite for the cinephile. From Brazil, South Korea and South L.A. they come, five to 15 minutes of honest storytelling and innovative styles.
Fireworks follows a few neighborhood adolescents on a Fourth of July adventure to find fireworks to impress some young ladies. The dialogue is free of the fake slang Diablo Cody and others are convinced "the kids" use and instead just takes real words from real kids in a Hispanic neighborhood. We're taken next to the Scottish hillsides, where battle-weary Norse warriors encounter a ship with wheels (i.e. a tour bus) in Tumult, a short similar to Evil Dead but without Bruce Campbell or a pending VHS release. Really standing out is Cine Camelo, a meta take on the power of film to preserve the storytelling tradition that brought us this neat thing called cinema in the first place. It's the story of a street vendor who hawks street-made films starring random passersby. While cheesy in production, often to hilarious effect, it's an effective reminder of how any of these Future Shorts made it anywhere.
Alongside the far-flung flicks of Future Shorts, The Devils Theater will screen David Pike's If It Kills You, a super short tale of a street girl who wakes up with super powers, so she thinks, featuring Missoula native Ann Rice. Last comes The Forgotten Circus, a haunting collaboration between Shelly Love and the British circus arts school Circus Space. The surreal choreography, music and clever cinematography present you with a performance Cirque du Soleil couldn't touch and a live circus could only emulate. The ringmaster, a spectator as much as a spectacle, completes the choreography with narration played in reverse and faces that definitely showed up in my dreams after watching it.
Though there is no charge at the door, one good film deserves another: donations will gladly be accepted for Lavo's current project, a feature-length adaptation of the play Breach. He played a role in the Montana Rep's production of it in 2006 and has worked with the playwright, Barret O'Brien, on moving this Hurricane Katrina story from stage to screen.
The Devils Theater Short Film Summer Series screens at the Missoula Public Library Sat., Sept., 1, at 4 p.m. Free. Donations encouraged.