EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the cover story for the mega-preview of the tenth annual Fear No Film portion of the Utah Arts Festival. See here for The Selective Echo’s thorough account of the 53 films featured in the seven Tipping Point screenings and here for the eight films comprising the annual Utah Short Film of The Year Competition.
The first published reference to the ‘tipping point’ metaphor came in a 1957 Scientific American article by sociologist Martin Grodzins who was documenting the ‘white flight’ from urban neighborhoods where black residents had moved. The metaphor caught on in several venues – most prominently, urban planning with regard to racial segregation – but it remained mostly under the radar. That is, until 2000, when Malcolm Gladwell wrote his popular book ‘The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference.’
Suddenly, it seemed that everyone was referencing the metaphor: academic journals, radio, television, Internet, newspapers, magazines, political speeches, music and every other imaginable medium. In fact, its first use relating to the climate change debate came not from scientists but from journalists and most researchers refrain from using the metaphor in discussing their work.
There is no question that the tipping point has established a firm place in the domain of popular culture. And, in the smart hands of curator Topher Horman, the tenth edition of the Fear No Film portion of the Utah Arts Festival, one can see in just how many ways the meaning of the ‘tipping point’ shifts from one user to another. In fact, the metaphor as it defines the seven programs of films being presented at this year’s festival is restored to its rightful lessons – as lessons to enrich us, inform us, and to remind us of our place in the community of humans.
The 61 firms that comprise this year’s Fear No Film schedule contain many magnificent examples of fictional narrative in many formats. If one theme is most predominant, it is freedom – whether it’s in affirming one’s identity, finding love in the most unexpected places and partners, breaking the boundaries of creative endeavor, or in casting off the poseur mentality and binding stereotype.
This year’s short thrillers and horror films are definitely among the best ever screened at the festival as are the fantasy-inspired pieces. In virtually every film, audience members will see precisely the tipping point that in the least might cause them to say, ‘Huh, I never imagined that,’ or in the deepest sense, ‘I should reconsider my thoughts about this.’
Many of the animated films – even those being screened in Fear No Film’s second exclusive programs for children in the festival’s Art Yard – pay just as much attention to story development as they do to meticulous technique. The animation ranges from solidly executed old-school techniques to engaging demonstrations of stop-motion techniques, paper cutouts, and, finally, to some of the most polished forms of computer-generated imagery.
There are two programs for children this year, that have been curated for specific age groups: 3-7, and 8 and up. It is worth noting that the program for the older children includes a nice range of story treatments that respects seriously the intelligent young viewer even as he or she is delighted by what is presented on the screen.
As in previous years, several selections function exclusively as music or video art pieces, including one that recently won for best of its genre at the Los Angeles New Media Film Festival. The documentaries include stories about storefront churches in the black community, a woman who is trying to help her son comprehend the implications of her cancer diagnosis, and a family with seven children who decide to adopt children with disabilities from Central and Eastern Europe.
Chosen from a record-breaking submission list of 400 shorts, the festival’s lineup comprises 13 films from Utah, 27 from other states in the country, and a record 21 from 10 nations, including seven from Spain.
Three filmmakers – James Cunningham of New Zealand, Aurelio Voltaire of New York City, and Seaton Lin – return to the festival. The films range in length from a minute to 33 minutes.
There are three selections from the locally based Spy Hop Productions, including an entry in the Utah Short Film of the Year Award category, which promises to be competitive on a titanic level.
The division includes two of the most talked about short films not only in Utah but around the world: ‘An Evening with My Comatose Mother,’ a horror film directed by Utah Valley University alumnus Jonathan Martin that has won more than 60 awards, and ‘Life According to Penny,’ a daring fictional piece directed by Ali Barr that has won at least nine awards already including best short at the 2012 LDS Film Festival.
As customary, a festival jury of film-making and media industry peers along with audience members will make selections for various awards, including the Grand Jury Prize, the Utah Short Film of the Year, and the Fear No Filmmaker Award.
Fear No Film has become one of the major highlights at one of the nation’s most successful arts festival. Horman is a thoroughly egalitarian curator, working with a diverse circle of jury members to distill the festival-worthy qualities of films that might not, on initial review, seem ready for a major public screening.
And, his capacity to build a theme that works and speaks quite persuasively about the emotion-inspiring impact of short films that, in many cases, are better equipped to share a complete narrative than in many feature-length films that cost tens upon tens of millions of dollars to produce. For example, ‘Sadder,’ the winning video from the Los Angeles New Media Film Festival, was produced for less than $25.
Viewers, however, should take careful note of Horman’s sequencing in each program that takes the audience on a journey that plainly is inspired by the concept of the tipping point at seven levels. The categories for this year’s Fear No Film lineup are:
You – Films intended to identify, inspire and challenge your unique perspectives and possibly alter who you ultimately are.
The Two of You – Stories exploring tipping points in all relationships, from first meetings, to relationships with food, to coping with death.
Us – Films where we, as one audience, share a tipping point of understanding in our collective moment of ‘oh.’
Them – Films centered on characters who are experiencing tipping points that will forever change their lives.
We The People – Films identifying tipping points in 21st century America, with tributes to our past, examples of an unsettled present, and questions about our future.
The Citizens of Earth – Stories blurring the lines of our societal identities and the boundaries that separate us.
The Planet – What we think about our place in the universe and how we behave in relation to Mother Earth is changing every day.
Festival screenings for all seven categories, which last approximately an hour, will begin on the first day of the festival (June 21) and continue through the last day on June 24. Showings occur every two hours.
Entries for the Utah Short Film of the Year competition, with a running time of 90 minutes, will be screened June 21, 22, and 23 at 8 p.m. For more information about screening times and the schedule of when short films will be aired, go here.
Horman advises that many of the screenings will include films with mature content so parental guidance is strongly advised.
For more information about the festival, see here.
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