NOW  SHOWING:  MICRO  MOVIES  ON  MOBILE  PHONES

MANILA, June 13, 2005
 (STAR) By Eden Estopace - Movies on mobile phones are nothing new anymore. Since handset manufacturers have toyed with the idea of integrating camcorders into cellphones, every tech buff knew that it’s going to be a possibility, or at least suspected that it’s going to spawn a whole new genre in personal moviemaking.

But look what we’ve got here now? Just a few years after the first mobile phones with video recorders hit the markets, international film competitions have created a separate category for short films shot using mobile phones and filmmakers are experimenting on the technical and creative possibilities of a very low resolution camera to tell a cinematic narrative.

At the second Siemens Micro Movie competition, which was held this year as part of the St. Kilda Film Festival 2005 in Melbourne, Australia last May 24-29, most of those who landed in the 12 finalists were veteran filmmakers.

Hermione Merry, whose entry Sunday or the Circus was one of the finalists in the competition, has directed Tim Metheral’s The Dark, a period drama set in rural Australia, in August 2002 as part of the Budapest Cinematography masterclass of 2003.

In an article entitled "Movies on the Move" published in theage.com, she told writer David Adams that "the challenge of making a 90-second movie using only the video camera embedded in a mobile phone was one (I) just couldn’t pass up."

"I really like working with very short, short films because for me it just really distills down what I want to say as a creative idea," she was quoted as saying.

Another finalist in the competition, Isazaly Mohamed Isa, is a Malaysian director and editor whose works include Between Jasmine And His Deep Blue Sea, which was named Best Student Project 1999 by Kodak Worldwide Student Programme of Malaysia, and A Short Story About Seau Ming, nominated for Best Experimental Video in the Malaysian Video Awards 2001.

His entry in the Siemens Movie Awards was entitled Double You See, a light comedy about a unisex toilet that is selective of its visitors.

When camera phones were new, it was easy to dismiss the gadget as another high-tech toy for those who have money to splurge. But recent developments have shown that this was no passing fad for angst-filled teenagers on the block who record snapshots of their everyday life, and for camera-touting tourists who lug it along the white sand beaches of the world.

The enormous enthusiasm of filmmakers who participated in the two Siemens Micro Movie competitions – the first was held as part of Interfilm Berlin last November – shows the tremendous opportunity out there for micro moviemaking and for using the cellphone as a creative tool.

German handset maker Siemens is to be credited for pioneering this venture and for taking micro moviemaking into another realm.

We’ve always known that the days of popcorn and movies on the widescreen are waning and was replaced by the home theater viewing experience provided by DVDs right there in our own personal or family space.

But are we prepared for movies on mobiles?

Perhaps, it would not approximate the satisfaction of a full-length movie, but short films have its uses. They’re light, they’re entertaining, they’re telling you something, but you don’t have to sit for two hours to digest and enjoy it.

This year’s winner, Damon Herriman’s Peephole, was a humorous account of a man fetching his blind date whom she met in an Internet chatroom, but was perplexed why she won’t open the door.

"I’m so nervous," Steve told himself after knocking on the door. And when she looked through the peephole and didn’t answer, Steve was fuming mad: "She didn’t find me attractive! She didn’t find me attractive!" and banged the door some more. Anger turned to fury: "You’ve crossed the wrong guy. Open the door, searchie. I know you’re in there, open the door!" And whoa! Susan, the girl who lives next door, opened up and there was Steve’s date, aghast at the shouting, cursing, flower-bearing man who was her date.

Sounds or feels familiar? Maybe. Maybe not.

Australian’s homecourt advantage reigned in this year’s competition. Of the 12 finalists, seven were Australian entries, and as such, the predominance of the Australian narrative.

Herriman’s short film on dating blues was chosen by the audience during the St. Kilda Film Festival as this year’s winner through online voting. The 12 finalists were shown at the Micro Movie booths of The George Cinemas foyer.

Herriman won A$5,000 on top of a Siemens video phone and a chance to participate in a film workshop with an Austra-lian filmmaker given to all finalists.

Getting Better

The call for entries to the second Siemens Micro Movie Awards was announced last January. Siemens provided filmmakers and film schools with the SX1 mobile phones across Australia and Southeast Asia and a total of 120 entries were received before the March 18 deadline.

It wasn’t known how the finalists were chosen, but the rules of the contest were simple. Use the Siemens SX1 phone to shoot footages. No restrictions were given as to cutting and editing, although the film sequences must be longer than the animation elements in the final piece.

Of the 12 finalists, Merry’s Sunday or the Circus has the most animation elements. The micro movie was a dark tale of a girl who discovers a dead body in her garden.

Aside from Herriman’s and Merry’s works, several other Australian short films made it to the top 12, including Katrina Mathers’ Meta4, an experimental conceptual argument that’s all fore... for... 4...four, and Geoff Brokate’s One Way Ticket, which tells a story of four identical passport photos coming to life and arguing as to who will be the "chosen one."

There were several films from Asia though that made it to the finals – Freedom by Pasca Susena of Indonesia, Traditional Rams Fighting by Andhika Prasetya Prod of Indonesia, Beijing 2008 by Wong Jun, and Isasaly’s Double You See.

Although no entries from the Philippines made it to the finals, there is always the possibility that Filipino film enthusiasts in this cellphone-crazy nation would one day claim accolades in this genre given the legendary creative spirit of our young artists.

The micro movies can still be viewed at www.micromovie-award.com.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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