Director of Programming James McNally is attending this year’s Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival from January 31st to February 8th
I must be getting used to the local time zone because my old friend insomnia was back last night with a vengeance. I went to bed by 1am but was awake at 4am and had a very difficult time after that. Hundreds of stories swirling around in my head, and not in a good way.
Today was the first day the market was open so I kept my schedule a little bit loose in order to check that out. I actually went twice and maybe spent a total of about 30 minutes there. It turns out that today was not my day to meet people, but I’ll get back to that.
After yet another breakfast consisting of just a tiny cup of café au lait, I made it to the market by just after 11am. The only person I actually spoke to was Hayden Ellis at the New Zealand stand. After a quick tour of the room, I went across the street to Cocteau in time for the 12pm international selection I8. Not much to report, unfortunately, since I found most of the films blunt and preachy. Europe is feeling the pinch economically and is feeling a lot guilt about racism, I think. Asia has its own immigration issues now, too, and people are feeling displaced all over the world. An interesting theme I’ll return to later. America‘s (self) portrait of an eccentric, possibly alcoholic, Italian man and Counterpart‘s odd but ultimately slight story of a strangely wise wheelchair-bound peeping tom and the couple he spies on were the best of the bunch, but still didn’t rise above being just good.
At 2pm I decided to take in the first of two market screenings of Scandinavian films and I had much better luck here. I had two favourites. Finnish charmer Behind the Curtain (image above) affectionately recalls a childhood trauma narrowly avoided by the quick thinking of a friend. I’m delighted to know that director Teemu Nikki is working on another short film right now entitled The Tits. My other favourite was the very ambitious Keys of Heaven (image below), which recounts the story of two homeless brothers caught up in the Iran/Iraq war of the 1980s. Great young actors tackling some difficult historical material.
When that was finished by 4pm, I realized I was famished, but the problem here in Clermont-Ferrand is that almost all real restaurants don’t open up until 7:00. Opening hours for shops are mysterious in general. I was forced to grab some pastries and a microwaveable dinner and go back to the apartment. A good thing, too, because I got a call from Ni-Ni‘s producer Carlos asking if their cinematographer Ben Hardwicke could take my extra bedroom. I hung around long enough to let him in and get him settled. It will be odd but nice to have someone else here for the next few days, and it will help financially to have someone contributing to the cost, too.
My plan for tonight was not very firm. I headed for the film market at 6pm to catch the end of the “happy hour” and was quite surprised to find it absolutely packed. Now I don’t really enjoy crowds (and it seems to get worse the older I get) but I thought I’d try to see if I recognized anyone or could even introduce myself to some people. But I quickly realized it would be impossible. The combination of not getting much sleep last night and not eating well for a couple of days has left me without much energy, especially social energy.
It might seem strange for me to admit this, but I’m that weirdest of all species. I’m an introvert who absolutely needs to be around people. But put me in a large room where I don’t know anyone and all my social awkwardness and insecurity and self-consciousness gang up on me. Every minute I spent in that crowded, hot room full of attractive people speaking multiple languages and demonstrating their superior knowledge of the film business just left me feeling more and more defeated. I know I’m feeling sorry for myself a bit, but I also know myself well. My only solution was to bail.
There weren’t any more screenings tonight that looked very compelling so believe it or not, I’ve been back at the apartment since about 7:15pm. Lame. But I figure I can get this blog post written and do some more Hot Docs screening work and I should be more energized tomorrow. But there is a lesson in here for anyone who’s even a bit like me. You need to do your homework and contact people well ahead of the festival. If you don’t make some connections in the first few days, it only seems to get harder since everyone here seems to know everyone else. And normal methods of communication that are easy at home (text, email, phone) may not work so easily abroad.