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Second Annual Kickstarter Film Festival

Crowd-sourced film festival exhibits work from new cinematic talent

by Greg Stefano in Culture on 26 July 2011

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I recently stopped by the 2nd annual Kickstarter Film Festival to do some sleuthing on up-and-coming film makers. The festival screens a collection of curated Kickstarter projects, including documentaries, animation and products. It was a perfect evening to enjoy some video outdoors and Kickstarter's partnership with Rooftop Films facilitated an impressive set up in the Gowanus neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY. All 16 of the films shown are definitely worth a look, but the four below are standouts.

"The Twelve O' Clock Boyz," a documentary by director Lofty Nathan, follows three different Baltimore City residents, all deeply involved in the illegal dirt-bike riding scene.

This practice of rallying, racing and showboating in city streets has become deeply ingrained in the urban culture of The City That Reads, but the illegal and dangerous nature has made it a contentious issue between the communities involved. Born from a rising tension between social and economic classes within the city, the dirt bike culture has come to epitomize rebellion, release and expression for marginalized communities. Nathan explores these relationships and the deeper issues that gave birth to this subculture in what promises to be a fascinating look inside the contemporary existence of urban communities.

Most of us are familiar with Richard Nixon, as well as Watergate and the infamous tape recordings which emerged from it. Our Nixon takes advantage of another set of recordings from this era —previously unreleased Super-8 footage recorded within and around the Nixon White House by some of his closest associates.

In all, 204 reels of "home movies" were confiscated by the FBI as part of the Watergate investigation. This never before seen material offers an interesting look at the everyday goings-on surrounding one of the more scandalous administrations in American history.

Shot by Chief of Staff H.R. "Bob" Haldeman, Chief Domestic Advisor John Ehrlichman and Special Assistant to the President Dwight Chapin, the three took to documenting all kinds of seemingly trivial occurrences. Truly believing they were part of a revolutionary turning point in American history, even Easter egg collection on the Front Lawn was deemed worthy of historical import. Delusions aside, the film—which makes use of the footage by way of a campy trajectory and hilarious montages, combined with selected clips from Nixon's recorded phone calls—effectively offers insight into the unseen aspects of the Executive Office. You can support documentarians Penny Lane and Brian Frye by pre-ordering a DVD from their site as the film is still in production.

Extremely touching, The Elders (subtitled "Everyone is a story") explores of life lessons told through the experience of a series of senior citizens. Director Nathaniel Hansen spoke with people all over the country and from a wide variety of backgrounds, from coal miners to engineers. In each portrait, the characters talk about their experiences, and as their stories unravel we get a distinct window on how certain things change with age but many, like love and loss, remain constant through generations. Check out the official trailer above and head to the webpage for upcoming screenings and news.

One of the most visually impressive pieces of the festival, The Beast Pageant, follows Abe on his adventurous escape from his mundane crushing existence. Abe lives in a city where he resides alone, only accompanied by a giant machine that spits out his essentials for survival. A mysterious series of events, culminating in a tiny singing cowboy bursting from his stomach, sets Abe off on an adventure of a lifetime. With an impressive cast of characters and the bizarre world Abe finds himself in, the film is enchanting, engulfing the viewer into a trance-like state of mystery and intrigue.

Shot on a 16mm Bolex that writers and directors Albert Birney and Jon Moses claim they found in a dumpster, the film combines great storytelling with fantastic costumes, animations and set design serving as an exceptional example of what a group of determined people can accomplish with little-to-no cash. The film is available on DVD or for download at Indiepix. Check out the site for more info on how this piece came together in a one-room studio in a Rochester, NY factory.

The Kickstarter Film Festival is an excellent reminder of the importance crowd-sourced funding can play in the creation and encouragement of new media and artistic expression. Be sure to keep up with these emerging filmmakers and explore other creative projects that need help getting off the ground—all these films prove that a little support can go a long way.

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