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72 Hour Film Festival recap

As always, some gems managed to shine through

Erik Hanberg took home the Honorable Mention award for his film "The Genie of Tacoma."


Best use of Dialogue: U-253

Last year's 72-Hour Film Festival was, I think, one of the best years so far. This year, I unfortunately cannot say the same. I don't believe that this change was affected by a drop in quality - there is always a healthy batch of misguided films. You've got your overly cutesy, your overlong, your overly psychotic. And that's part of the fun of the event: getting to see this wide cross-section of viewpoints, no matter how harebrained, from a group of Tacoma's own amateur filmmakers. That they do this in 72 hours is nothing to be scoffed at.

However, participation in this year's festival was unusually low. Out of an allotted 30 teams, only 23 came through with their 5-minute shorts. Perhaps this had something to do with the disproportionate amount of bad films to good.

This is not to say, of course, that this year was a wash. As always, some gems managed to shine through, and the vibe of the audience was warm and supportive.

A highlight of mine was the contribution from Erik Hanberg. Every year brings one or two films that can reside in the "Tacoma-centric humor" category, and Hanberg's The Genie of Tacoma took that concept to a new level by including a cameo that was as impressive as it was legitimately funny. The film took the Honorable Mention award, but I would have rather seen it win Best Overall.

Isaac Olsen, the returning champ, again did not disappoint. Alone? In the Wilderness?,their parody of you know what, was most definitely a stylistic change from past entries (see: Teenagers, Foolish Games), but the humor remained intact. I never knew you could get so much mileage out of a rubber squirrel, and I was not alone. Olsen's film garnered the Audience Award.

I don't know why I'm so delighted by Terese Cuff's films. If I'm not mistaken, I believe that her team is the only one to have participated in every year since the Festival's inception. Larry's Odyssey continues her tradition of making cute films that are somehow also completely bizarre. Somewhere inside that sweet old lady lurks a radical soul. Her film's animated map was enough to take the award for Best Use of the Prop.

U-253, The Device, and Zen Arcade won, respectively, Best Use of Dialogue ("Should I know what that means?"), Best Use of the Action (breaking), and Best Use of the Situation (finding a bag that contains something important). All the films were made by returning competitors whose confidence seems to be growing.

Now here's something unusual: Stolen, an action movie, won Best Overall. It's not every year that the judges get won over by action. That's not for lack of entries. The 72-Hour Film Festival is lousy with action movies. But Stolen, by first-time competitors, showed a surprising level of competence in the handling of quite difficult things like fight and chase scenes. It tells the story of a samurai sword-wielding detective (!) who is hot on the trail of a femme fatale and her web of intrigue.

Or something. There are samurai swords.

What with the constraints of time, and the unpredictability of the competitors, there's naturally an ebb and a flow in the overall quality with each year. I fully expect next year to blow me away, as I expect every year. You never know what can be accomplished in three days.

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