We had twenty entries in all, from nine counties around the world. There were several trends. The off-screen gunshot was a favorite. Lots of typewriters. We even had a couple sports themes. And, of course, we went a long way to bring the fedora back in style.
This was our first contest here on IQ. It was a nervous undertaking not knowing what to expect. It was a epic spanning 3 articles 2 videos and countless discussion topics, I can tell you now it was all worth it.
Watching all these videos was the most fun we had in a long time. They were all great in their own way. We started our little site about two years ago and watched it grow into a large community spanning the globe. When I sit back and think of all the hard work everyone put into these videos it makes every day fighting with servers, code, spammers and deadlines all worthwhile. I want to thank each and every one of you that submitted a video and all the rest that use and contribute to our global filmmaking community.
One other remarkable note; Anna and Eric our first and third place winners, this was the first ever video they created. You never know what is inside you till you hit that record button.
And the Film Noir Contest winners are….
Slight Correction by Anna Slatvinsaya – Minsk, Belarus
The playful opening credits of Slight Correction read; creative association “Check It Out Three Times” studio “At Least.” Is that ever true. I watched this at least a dozen times before creating this critique and I am still discovering new things.
To fully appreciate this remarkable video you should understand a little about where it came from. Anna the films creator is a student at the Belarus Free Theatre. This is a group that the Daily Telegraph called “the bravest theatre company in the world.” They may just be right. Belarus is a country former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice once referred to as “the last dictatorship in Europe.” Since his election in July 1994 as the country’s first president, Aleksandr LUKASHENKO has steadily consolidated his power through authoritarian means. Government restrictions on freedom of speech and the press, peaceful assembly, and religion remain in place. Guerrilla artists are forced perform underground while being persecuted by their government. Belarus is 186th out of 195 countries in term of freedom of the press. And is on Reporters Without Borders list of countries that are “enemies of the Internet.” As a matter of fact it took the creators three attempts just to get decent quality video to us.
Cast & Crew:
Anna Slatvinsaya (script, director, producer)
Alexey Shvedov (2d director, editor, camera)
Alexander Martynuk (camera)
Denis Tarasenko (actor Belarus Free Theatre)
Oleg Sidorchik (actor Belarus Free Theatre)
Alexey Slatvinsky (driver)
Anna has told us it is not directly about politics. It’s about choice. More importantly the choices we make of our own freewill.
It’s easy to read lots of things into this film, but for the sake of our breakdown we will stick to what is on the screen and leave the interpretations to you.
Watching this film I was reminded of the classic noir The Manchurian Candidate and the neo-noir Mulholland Dr.. It makes excellent use of Noir trademarks such as; low-key lighting, unconventional camera angles, deep focus and story tone.
The film starts off with a voyeur motif of a compressed frame and a strong radial blur and heavy breathing. We approach the protag, as he wakes up for his job interview. The muted earth tones are desaturated to the point were on my first viewing a barely noticed the change to black and white.
7AM – time to wake up.
Getting ready for the interview. Note how the frame has now expanded to take up full screen – we are no longer viewing this from the eyes of the watcher. Notice how the man in the portait is right over his shoulder – in focus, watching him, and smiling.
And then… hard cut… to a tighter close up. This looks like a breaking of the 180 degree rule, but it’s more than that. Its actually a flipped image.
Our protag leaves his home. An extreme low shot exagerates his height and shows him as powerful and in control. This is a shot even Gregg Toland would be proud of.
Here we see a dutch angle shot portraying the psychological uneasiness of the outside world.
But the differences is only a perceived one…
And now we’re back at the compressed frame and blur motif… we are seeing through the eyes of the watcher.
Is the watcher also the sweeper?
Standing at the front of the National Library of Belarus.
Anna (the filmmaker) says the National Library was chosen not because it is a library in a “IQ” context (though people familiar with the building many come away with that meaning), but because of it’s style (it’s unique to Belarus) and because of it’s history (the people had to give their money for it’s construction). The National Library also can be a symbol of care about plain Belarussian people from one hand and a president power from another hand. So there is no a single meaning.
The unnatural bent up stance accentuates the largeness of the building in front of him. If you watch closely you will notice sunlight breaking through the clouds and sweeping across the ground towards the building as he is faced with 2 different paths to travel.
He is being followed everywhere by the watcher. The frame collapses and we return to color as the tunnel vision distorts the edges of perception.
And now we’re in the interview. Two men in a room separated by a not so happy looking man in a portrait sitting atop an empty suit. The lighting is stylistically placed very low. The scene starts with a very antsy interviewer who suddenly explodes into joy.
All the shots of the protag are shot from high about looking down on him. This almost creates the classic Stanley Kubric V stape with the eyebrows and nose – an image that exudes ambition.
Where as the interviewer is shot slightly from below – he is power and looked up to.
The filmmakers employ a wide angle lens to exagerate the movements of the actors.
Inserting flashes of blue shots – a juxtaposition of otherwise black and white with shots of color.
The blue lights are a night time shot of the National Library (illustrated in this YouTube video).
The pill – note the extended fingers to add shape and dynamics.
A moment of hesitation, but the protag relents.
The interviewer drinks, but only after the protag.
And as soon as it comes, it’s back to the austere facade.
The next day the pill has taken effect.
But now the street sweeper is the dominant figure towering over the protag. First austere.
Does the street sweeper look familiar? Yes, the man in the picture, the interviewer and the sweeper are all the same actor.
And as soon it comes, it goes away…
I Had a Girlfriend by Joonas Makkonen – Tornio, Finland
Our Second place entry is the Finnish entry “I Had a Girlfriend” about a low level criminal trapped inside the cycle of love and infidelity. This is a powerhouse of visuals and masterfully demonstrates a blend of modern and classic visual noir sensibilities and story telling. Note the use of identical framing and dialog to illustrate the cycle that the protag endures.
Enslaved by Eric Holden – Temecula, California USA
Our third selection in the Film Noir Contest is, “Enslaved” – a film about a tech worker trapped inside the cycle of work – typin’ and clickin’, typin’ and clickin’. It continues the strong tradition of film noir of depicting a world where the protagonist is trapped and cannot escape. It’s man vs. the cubicle and includes a meticulously well shot stop action animation sequence.
Special Jury Award: Best Classic Noir
The Manuscript by Jake Hellbach – Missouri City, Texas USA
Our Special Jury Award goes to “The Manuscript” by director Jake Hellenbach – a classic black and white noir from the opening typewriter shot to the retro typography of the credits. A special mention to Jake Hellbach also for being a supportive voice in the discussions and helping out his fellow filmmakers.
Special Jury Award: Best Cast
We would also like to recognize Blood and Diamonds from Chris Ashley – a hard boiled tale of crime and double dealing. Chris Ashley’s young but enthusiastic cast shows us that filmmaking knows no age.
Blood & Diamonds by Chris Ashley – Kitchener, Ontario Canada
All the other winners
I hate the phrase, “there are no losers,” but in this case it’s so very true. The hardest part of filmmaking is getting off your ass and doing it. And whether this was your first film or 20th, you can now call yourself a filmmaker and it will be true.