Last night at the Newport Beach Film Festival was the world premiere of Frank Kelly’s 140, an innovative documentary that utilizes and was inspired by Twitter. We covered the film in our NBFF preview, and you can now read my full review after the break, as well as audio and a few notes from the Q&A with Kelly and co-producer Elliot Kotek.
First of all, it’s hard to separate yourself from the process when watching this movie and trying to decide what you think of it. The complexities in coordinating the effort to get all the footage alone is impressive. For those not in the know, Frank Kelly was inspired by Twitter to make a movie that combined video from people all over the world. Using the character limit of Twitter entries as a base, he got 140 filmmakers (both amateur and professional) to shoot 140 seconds of footage at the exact same time and date (June 21, 2009 at 1PM Pacific Time). The idea was to get a snapshot of the world at a single moment. He coordinated this almost entirely online (including, of course, Twitter), and the only guidelines other than the time and length of the footage was the theme, which was the question “what connects you to home?”.
The documentary is pretty much what you would expect from this kind of premise. The quality of videos (both in terms of content and technology) varies greatly, as does the power of each scene. There are scenes of landscape, pets, everyday chores, speeches, you name it. Though there are some highlights in the overall film that really grab you, like a (spoiler alert) surprise proposal, I found it hard to sit through the whole thing at once. Some of the sequences were a bit boring, with the original songs the only thing giving them any kind of significance, but the real issue is the disjointed nature of it all. There are a few themes we see with the “home” question, including those disconnected with their homes, and family being what home is about, but the rest feels like filler. It’s like trying to watch 80 minutes of random original YouTube videos in a row, a feat that can only be done if one gets help from the Shuffle Gods.
Overall, however, I do feel this film has significance. There are some great scenes that range from hilarious to touching, and just knowing that I’m seeing one moment in time from around the world kept me interested when I otherwise wouldn’t be. The film shows how we are all connected as people, despite being in a growingly disconnected world. Maybe this is an example of the concept being more impressive than the content, but I don’t know if that’s such as bad thing. I think we could all benefit from feeling more connected.
After the film, Kelly and Kotek stayed to talk about it and answer questions. Kelly talked about why he chose June 21st (that was my question!), whether Twitter was officially involved or could be in the future, the challenges of coordinating the film, and its cultural significance. He also talked about the future in terms of how filmmaking is turning towards crowd sourcing and using the Internet as tool, as well as the potential for a 140 Nation series, which takes the same concept but focuses it on a particular country (i.e. 140 Spain). There’s lots of good stuff, so take a listen.
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