Friday, January 15, 2010

Take 5 with "Fire"

The 7th annual Oxford Film Festival is getting closer every day. Before we kick off another fun-packed festival, we thought we would take five with filmmakers and get to know them just a little better.

"Fire" is an experimental film by Thad Keel (not pictured, scene from Fire is to left) from Taylor that screens Saturday, Feb. 6 at 1 p.m. in the Experimental Shorts block. 

OFF: In 10 words, describe your movie and why someone should see it.

TK: It a close look at fire and fire-makers. The film was an attempt to create a breathing, digital painting.

OFF: Biggest lesson learned in getting the film made? Best part in getting the film made?

TK: Fire acts like water.

OFF: Tell us about you. What is your movie making background?

TK: This is my first film. I never intended to make a film. I shoot black and white still pictures and write prose. I live at Eula Acres and there are film cameras for us to use when we wish. Dusty Sinclair asked me to film him burning a radio and it followed from there.

OFF: What’s your dream distribution plan for the film?

TK: There's not one. Maybe one day it will be on the internet or a museum would like to show it.

OFF: What’s the future hold in store for your film and for you?

TK: I feel like I am just starting to form so I hope there is enough time and space in the future for me to grow and create. I like the moving camera. I'd like to keep experimenting with breathing paintings. I've just begun writing prose for the screen. Maybe one day I'll make a film that has a story some day too.


Anonymous said...

The type of burning displayed in this film is ILLEGAL in the state of MS and environmentally irresponsible. The burning of electronics is known to contaminate the water table, and, when done on a large scale, it can lead to a city needing to ship in water from another town.

It is surprising that the OFF coordinators would allow a video promoting illegal and irresponsible behavior to be shown without any disclaimer, particularly when it is something so obviously damaging to our local environment here in Oxford, MS.

Would the coordinators of OFF have promoted a film that supported racist stereotypes, which although disgusting is NOT illegal? I think not.

So, the question is: Why did they promote and publicly display this film?

Michelle said...

On behalf of the Oxford Film Festival, I would like to thank [anonymous] for attending our festival last weekend, and regret that the question he raised during the Q&A session following the screening of Thad Keel’s “Fire” during the Experimental Film Block was not answered more respectfully. We are pleased, however, that the subject of the careless burning of hazardous materials was raised after the screening. It is our hope that many discussions over the course of the weekend were sparked by people discussing what they saw on screen, which is one of the goals of our festival.

[He] is absolutely correct in citing the Mississippi law prohibiting the open burning of residential solid waste. He is not correct, however, in suggesting that the Film Festival, by screening Mr. Keel’s film, is promoting illegal behavior any more than we are promoting the consumption of marijuana (as in Wonderful World and Blue Boy), or armed robbery (True Beauty This Night), or dumpster diving on private property (Dive!), or keeping prisoners in one’s basement (Winding Down), or breaking one’s grandmother out of her nursing home (Carried Away), or lacing one’s spouse’s morning coffee with contraceptives (A Quiet Little Marriage).

At his suggestion, future screenings during the Oxford Film Festival will include the following disclaimer: Views expressed in the films screened are of the filmmakers, and not necessarily shared by the Oxford Film Festival. Presentation of films does not necessarily mean that the Oxford Film Festival promotes the behavior contained therein.

The purpose of the OFF is to support artists and filmmakers, to present different points of view to our audience and spark conversation. We would like to thank [anonymous] for expressing his concerns and for engaging in the conversation. We hope that he will continue to support the Film Festival.

Anonymous said...

Dear Dr. Emanuel and company,

I appreciate your response, but I think you may have missed the main point of my commentary. My concern is not just that the OFF did not include a disclaimer (and I did not “suggest” that the OFF do so), but that the films are not being equally evaluated before being shown.

A good movie, if human behavior is its subject, speaks to the human condition, and, if it depicts people engaging in behavior that our society has forbidden, it also presents the audience with the incentive to consider and evaluate the actions they have seen. “Fire” provided no discussion of the illegal behaviors of its subjects and, therefore, implicitly promoted such behavior. I fail to understand how such a film would rise to the level of deserving public display at the OFF.

Of all the films you listed, only one of them was of a similar genre, the documentary “Dive!”. The others are “narratives” or fictionalized stories, where the viewer understands that the films don’t necessarily portray reality. These films, therefore, cannot serve as accurate comparisons to “Fire”. Although I did not attend “Dive!”, the trailer for it on the OFF website includes a scene where one man says, “I’d be proud to say that I got arrested for eating somebody’s waste. That is where the conflict comes between what I believe is just and what is legal.” As short as it is, this single statement makes a comparison between what was being done in the film and what is legal, thereby encouraging the audience to evaluate the actions the film portrays.

Unfortunately, there was no such statement (explicit or implicit) about the legality of the actions portrayed in the film “Fire”. Instead, the issue was only brought up because of my question, and Mr. Keel’s response to it clearly suggested that he had not intended for his film to consider these issues.

Consequently, Mr. Keel appeared to be indirectly promoting such actions, if only through his indifferent attitude toward irresponsible and illegal behaviors in his film and in the Q & A session afterwards. However, this promotion is subtle, as the audience was enticed to only consider how cool the multi-colored fire looked when these hazardous materials were burned. Although such promotion was likely not intentional, the making and public display of the film leaves both Mr. Keel and the OFF as responsible parties for promoting such illegal and irresponsible behavior.

Although it may seem that I am being only critical of the OFF, I was generally pleased with the film festival as a whole, and I plan to continue attending the OFF in future years. I attended as many films over the weekend as was possible for one person to do, and I did not come across another film which was otherwise promotional of illegal behavior.

So, I am left with one simple question: Is it possible that the OFF chose to show this film in spite of its content (or without carefully considering its content) because of its desire to support the films of local artists, rather than weighing the quality of the film against that of the other submissions?