In its 16th season, the Central Florida Film & Video Festival continues its tradition of challenging the structures of film and the society in which it operates.
The vision of event organizer Frameworks Alliance has always been to break down the barriers between cinema and its aesthetic cousins: video, music and visual art. The festival's 1998 edition widens the focus, with an expanded slate of themed evenings that establish the vital relationship between input seen and heard. Arts collective Illuminati hosts one such event, an Illumination party that fills three Wall Street Plaza venues with the creation of flights of multimedia fancy.
It's the films, however, that remain the central attraction. The 1998 roster includes more than a few works that operate outside the narrow boundaries of both mainstream moviemaking and the increasingly co-opted independent movement. Feature One Take explores issues of grief and loss, as personified by a young man whose visions of his dead girlfriend bring him into contact with a greater, more modern horror. I Remember uses the format of the short to string a series of observations about human frailties and bodily functions into a subtle but comprehensive statement on the quest for identity.
Other offerings are less personal and more political in scope. Opening-night film I Am Cuba demonstrates the appropriation of art as propaganda behind what remains of the Iron Curtain. The Ad and the Ego turns the critical eye on our own culture, issuing a flawless deconstruction of the twisted values imbued in us by commercial advertising. The argument is so effective that it's easy to miss a central irony: In its quick-cut editing and sound-bite commentary, the film is as much of an ad as anything it skewers.
Similar themes of media saturation are taken up by theorists George Gerbner, Todd Gitlin and Jerry Mander, guests brought in for educational forums and book-signings that test the festival audience's ability to digest social analysis that doesn't rely on pretty, flickering images for its power.
Not everyone wants an intellectually transfixing experience, however, and Frameworks has always realized that the meat of its endeavors goes down better when coated with a healthy layer of cheese. Last year's appearance by cheap-thrills purveyor Russ Meyer for a showing of his flesh-filled epic, "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls," was given the heave-ho by its intended host site, the embarrassed Pleasure Island 24. This time, the call of kitsch is sounded by a showing of Planet of the Apes, the sci-fi stalwart famous for the oft-parodied histrionics of its perpetually outraged star, Charlton Heston.
The desire to cover all bases makes the idea of taking the show on the road even more alluring, and this year, the festival will for the first time make stops in three other Central Florida cities: Tampa, Gainesville and Melbourne will all be treated to their own, personalized installments once the 10-day marathon has run its course here. It's Orlando, though, that remains its spiritual home base, the place where an embryonic but thriving arts community affords the CFFVF its best exposure ... and allows it to grow at just its own speed.