No Direction

PRESENTER: The Academy is proud to present five films in the new category “Accidental Cinema.”  Using the extraordinary output of tens of millions of security and surveillance cameras around the world, these films show what can be done without overpriced directors, coked-up stars or ego-fueled screenwriters.  These spontaneous stories capture the full range of formerly unobserved behavior and provide dramatic demonstrations of why they  should often remain unobserved.  

It was Truffaut who once said “The camera is a beast that needs to be fed.”   Or maybe it was Orson Welles who said “Even the camera does not fulfill me. I am a beast who needs to be fed.”   No matter, because either way, these films are unforgettable examples of the camera gorging on life.

The nominees are:

“Dave’s House of Birds” –   Influenced by Warhol and Wiseman, this daunting viewer experience is 24 continuous hours of an African Grey parrot in a San Francisco pet store.  The parrot had been the subject of repeated death threats due to its incessant repetition of  “Homosexuality is a sin, I like my guacamole mild.”

“Three Items Per Customer” –  Displaying a Haneke-like voyeurism, this highly controversial film consists of an hour of clips of fluorescent truth shot in dressing rooms around the world.  It cinematically addresses the question “How could anyone buy an outfit like that?  Don’t they ever look at a mirror?” and brilliantly fails to answer it.

“Midnight Protection” – From the sub-genre called “Mini-Mart Emo”, touching footage of a young man awkwardly buying his first condom while his increasingly bored girlfriend flirts with a man buying grapes and batteries and wearing  a Tiger Woods Halloween mask.

“Lock and Key” –  Chosen from over 5,000 bank-cam videos, this 60-minute montage of customers in the safe deposit room at a Moscow bank captures everyone from cashmere-clad oligarchs to Krushchev-era grandmas as they pull cash out of coats, shopping bags, and even matryoshka dolls to stuff into their boxes.   The film ends suddenly and dramatically when a furious babushka approaches the lens brandishing a large root vegetable.

“Just Browsing” – Over a 24-hour period, 5 baguettes, a two roast Bresse chickens and a six foot standing cut-out of a chef dancing with a large saucisson are taken from a Monoprix store in Lyon by a series of creative shoplifters.  The whimsical footage is an unintended homage to Jacque Tati.

“Unsanitized” – Powerful vérité footage shot over six-month period in the washroom of unidentified state legislature.   You’ll find it hard to judge which is more shocking–the lack of personal ethics or the lack of personal hygiene.

The envelope please. 

Adam Hanft is the founder and CEO of Hanft Unlimited. He blogs for the Huffington Post, The Daily Beast, and Fast Company and is a frequent commentator on National Public Radio’s Marketplace. He is the co-writer, with Faith Popcorn, of The Dictionary of the Future.