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Sunday, 10 July 2011

111° Longitude (2009)

Directors: Yuri Makino and Cindy Stilwell

My favourite No Festival Required screening of the year is always the selection of short films shown at the Phoenix Art Museum. Here's Selection 2011.
From a technical perspective, 111° Longitude is an interesting piece. Made by two female friends and filmmakers who met at film school in New York City, they each tell about themselves while the stills and footage they shot is combined through split screen to highlight the similarities and the differences in their lives at different points on the 111th meridian: Cindy Stilwell in Montana and Yuri Makino in Arizona. There's complexity that I'd like to explore through further viewings but one time through was still enough to highlight a few things, not least that the comparisons being drawn aren't between snow and tumbleweeds but between transience and permanence. What I got out of the film was a surprising conclusion: namely how much transience is easy and consistent, while permanence is so different that it becomes difficult how to decide on it. That's a grand challenge to explore in a nine minute short.

For a while, Makino and Stilwell talk about movement and the visuals we see highlight how much consistency transience really has. We see trains, overpasses and hotels, which look precisely the same regardless where they are, something neatly highlighted by a clever illusion of motion between the two halves of the split screen. Was it Stevie Wonder who always stayed in the same hotel chain, as the layout of the rooms is identical? The message seems to be that transience is comfortable because you don't have to commit. Permanence is another matter. Makino suggests that Tucson is a place where people go to hide or heal or start over. It's somewhere to settle and while there are many similarities drawn between the two locations, there's a major gap between them that highlights how serious permanence is. Beautifully shot, well composed and compared, I feel like there's more depth here to discover. I'd like a second run through to find out.

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