Though the pipe dream of our state pulling second to California in film production evaporated sometime back in the 1990s, an awful lot of Floridians keep calling "Action!" anyway. You don't introduce a virus like cinematic creativity and not expect its effects to continue long after the source of the infection has passed on.
That's good news for the Brouhaha Film & Video Showcase, the compendium of Florida-made screenwork that returns to Maitland's Enzian Theater this weekend. According to Matthew Curtis, the theater's director of programming, the volume of works submitted to Brouhaha rose 20 percent this time out. A record 120 entries were received from the state's filmmaking students, instructors, production houses and independent auteurs.
"We just broke 100 last time," Curtis says.
One of the reasons for the increase: A major restructuring of Enzian's events calendar brought about an unprecedented 18 Ãmonth gap between Brouhaha's 11th and 12th editions. That time lag enabled Brouhaha to nab some student projects that the Florida Film Festival -- which moved to March this year -- missed out on.
For instance, FFF 2003 included no computer-animated shorts produced by Sarasota's Ringling School of Art and Design. Brouhaha has nine. And a beguiling bunch they are, too, perhaps the school's best-ever collective argument that student animation can accomplish more than showing off learned techniques. Note the Tim Burtonesque whimsy of "Poor Bogo," in which the unfettered imagination of a little girl takes a bedtime story in wildly illogical directions.
While desktop fantasy remains a staple of Brouhaha, the overall schedule (four programs are spread over two afternoons) displays an increased diversity of subject matter and style. As the number of Floridians wielding cameras has risen, Curtis says, "their concerns have gotten more interesting, too." So the students in the great Florida State University film school can be counted on to generate more than the working-class comedies on which their alma mater made its name. Yes, the 16-minute "Jimbo's A-Comin'" is one such project, a typically well-shot comedy about a milquetoast barkeep who inherits a biker tavern. But a look at the more experimental "My Josephine," a dreamlike memoir related by an immigrant launderer, reveals that "the FSU approach" has become impossible to define.
Familiar names are likewise wandering down new creative ave-nues. Counter-cultural gadfly John Contos mounts a visit to "Robot Eye Land," an impressionistic commingling of space-age dominatrices and oiled-up slave boys. Anthony Torres, the brains behind past Brouhaha highlights "Hey You!," "Jumpista!" and "The Invisible Guy," explores anti-homosexual violence in the drama Bash. And the University of Central Florida follows suit with "The Groveland Four," a minidocumentary about the bitter injustice done to four black men accused of rape in the 1940s.
Brouhaha has also discovered a viable resource in Group 101, the monthly filmmaking initiative at Winter Park's Creative Stages facility. The program, Curtis says, is a "refreshing" study in cinematic dedication. Group member Maia Monasterios (who is also an FFF staffer) weighs in on the topic of "Communication," essaying a close-up rendering of a monologue performed by Temenos Ensemble Theater cofounder Christian Kelty.
The short-film format, though, will always lend itself to quasi-science-fiction stories related with a nudge and a wink -- tales with "'Twilight Zone'-type appeal," as Curtis calls it. There's probably no better example than "Hereditary Misfortune," a black-comic portrait of a family doomed to share accidental deaths the way others pass on double chins. This impressively slick short, contributed by Windemere's iWonder Productions, encompasses one state-of-the-art postproduction trick after another. Yet it never looks like a glorified clip reel, its clever script retaining primacy over its pinpoint zooms and simulated leaps from high ledges. Our local film commission could do far worse than use iWonder's little gem as demo material in their promotional campaigns. In its own way, it carries a message that's the same as Brouhaha's: People here are still making movies. Come be a part of it.