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The Lost Film Festival

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The Lost Film Festival started out geographically grounded in West Philadelphia, but in its current incarnation it travels from town to town with Festival Director Scott Beibin. Beibin describes The Lost Film Festival as a “more inclusive” form of film exhibition, and to some extent he’s right. He solicits the audience for submissions, and judging from some of the films screened (untitled footage of the G8 protests in Scotland, a film called An Unconventional Critical Mass that isn’t much more than video footage of the 2004 RNC Critical Mass in New York) and provided it’s topica,l it probably stands a good chance of being in future programs.

But it’s inclusive only within certain defined boundaries. The Lost Film Festival caters to a fairly specific audience. The flyers state, “If George W. Bush makes you puke, you’ll love the punk-rock urgency of the Lost Film Fest.” The Festival is inclusive of a certain viewpoint, but makes little effort to reach out to others. There were also definite limits to how much interaction there was between Beibin and the audience. The Pittsburgh program was hosted in the Carnegie Mellon University lecture hall, and the invisible barrier between host and audience, and audience and film, was largely unbroken. We were in the seats; he was at the front. Except for during brief calls for “community announcements,” he was the one talking while we were the ones listening.

The Lost Film Festival is predicated on the notion, described by Bill Nichols in the Winter 2005-06 issue of Film Quarterly, that “the public debate about pressing issues has effectively screened out everything but the conservative, institutionalized voices of established media outlets” (page 3). This is an attempt to explore alternative media outlets to give voice to oppositional views. But there is room in this model for more discourse and more debate. Films like An Unconventional Critical Mass and The Fellowship of the Ring of Free Trade (available online here) celebrate protesters as their heroes, but they take it for granted that that view is already shared by their audience. Beibin says, “This is about breaking the illusions cast by Hollywood & CNN.” I fear, though, that there’s no more information, no more argument in The Lost Film Festival than in the established media outlets — the heroes and villains are simply relabeled.

There are unrepresented voices, and if you’re sympathetic to their message you’ll find much to enjoy. The program I attended included, along with the films I’ve already mentioned, World of Evil (available online here), the musical video for a song called “The Anti-American Dance” by Gatas Parlament, Conspiracy Theory Rock (available online here), a documentary short about Italian pirate television stations called Tele-Street, Gears For Fears, a documentary short called USA Under Attack, What Barry Says, and The Yes Men’s The Horribly Stupid Stunt Which Has Resulted in His Untimely Death. The best part of The Lost Film Festival is that it’s free, so I suppose, if nothing else, you’re guaranteed your money’s worth.

Upcoming tour dates:

11 April – NYU (New York)
12 April – Emerson College (Boston)
19 April – Drake University (Des Moines)
20 April – Des Moines Arts Center (Des Moines)
22 April – Versionfest (Chicago)
23 April – Around the Coyote Gallery (Chicago)

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