2-Minute Film Festival goes to the moon

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Prepare for blastoff to the realm of the imagination at the outer space-themed 2-Minute Film Festival Thursday in Carnegie Museum of Art’‍s Sculpture Court. A bonus will be the premiere of part three of The Invisible Photograph documentary series about the retrieval of images of the moon made in preparation for the Apollo missions of the 1960s and ’‍70s.

The 26 films to be screened range from “Cats Lost in Space!” by Moundsville, W.Va., filmmakers Ian Brannan and April Streight (any film compilation worth its salt has to have a cat film, no?) to “Schroedinger’‍s Bed” by London-based Michael Murnau and inspired by the namesake’‍s quantum mechanics thought experiment (which also features a cat, raising the question as to which of the two film festival submissions is the more tongue-in-cheek, ridiculous and/or sublime).

Felines aside, there are other animals and quandaries visited through works that range from naturalistic and nostalgic to abstract and experimental.

This is the fourth two-minute festival, and submissions have held at about 60 or 70 for each, but they’‍re becoming more international, said Lucy Stewart, the museum’‍s associate curator of education. The majority of the 2014 filmmakers are Pittsburgh-based, but films also came from Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Israel, Italy and Poland. And, most impressively, Paul Kuhrman’‍s “From the Earth to Mars and Not Necessarily Back Again” was “shot entirely on location on Mars.” Mars, Butler County, that is.

“It was very very hard to cut. There were a lot of great submissions,” Ms. Stewart said.

Those that fit into the festival time frame of about an hour counting intermission were a good mix, she said, of “local and international, age groups, film backgrounds and technical prowess ... from the finished film to frame-by-frame stop action ... found footage to creative footage.”

The museum adopted a loose interpretation of outer space and reminded filmmakers that “we are also in space,” which inspired some Earth-bound entries.

“What could that [topic] mean to different people from different walks of life? The lunar screening adds this extra level of interpretation,” Ms. Stewart said.

“The House and the Moon” by Pittsburgher Madalene Spezialetti “is the most personal. A very, very sweet multigeneration film about [family members] looking at the moon over their houses,” she said.

 “Dreams,” which should give NASA heart, was made by Grove City High School students Lucas Zenobi and Noah Livingston, who take advanced video production with teacher Jared Henshaw. David Bernabo of Pittsburgh credits choreographer Maira Duarte for dance sequences in “Landscape.” Cal Arts graduate and Pittsburgh native Ben Reicher, a lab associate at Disney Research, presents a very polished animation, “Mirage Maker,” achingly evocative of the human experience. Israeli resident Shahar Tuchner’‍s “The Thing” should top any preconception you may have of a threatening invader.

The film festival will begin outside at 9:15 p.m. Preceding it will be the screening of “Extraterrestrial: The Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project” at 8:15 p.m. in the museum theater. In attendance will be Keith Cowing, project co-lead, and Divya Rao Heffley, program manager of the Hillman Photography Initiative, of which The Invisible Photograph documentary series is a part.

The Invisible Photograph is one of four projects of the Hillman Photography Initiative. It comprises a “five-part documentary series that reveals, uncovers or explores sites or concepts integral to the way we understand photography today but are generally hidden from public view,” Ms. Heffley explained.

The first two parts were about images that were made invisible because they were stored underground or were technologically inaccessible. The images of “Extraterrestrial” were unreadable because they were harbored within classified hardware developed by the government that had to be reverse engineered to achieve access.Those extremely high-resolution images of the moon were taken by unmanned lunar orbiters in preparation for Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’‍s historic 1969 landing. After Apollo, NASA intended to destroy the tape drives, but an employee recognized their significance and stored them for 45 years, Ms. Heffley said.

The lunar orbiter project is made up of “a group of dedicated space industry professionals who have worked for several years to digitally recover the first photographs of the moon and the first photographs of Earth taken from the moon,” Ms. Heffley said. Their work site is an abandoned McDonald’‍s on a NASA naval air station in Mountain View, Calif. When the Carnegie Museum film crew arrived in March, the team of techno-archaeologists had just digitized the final of the more than 1,400 magnetic tapes.

“Extraterrestrial,” as with the other Invisible Photograph documentaries, will be made available on the museum website a few days after the local premiere. Previous episodes have had more than 60,000 complete views and 300,000 partial views representing every continent except Antarctica, Ms. Heffley said.

“Every iteration of the 2-Minute Film Festival has a different theme. This night of film and the only Invisible Photograph with film made a natural package. We’‍re hoping the [Hillman Photography] Initiative’‍s film invites people to stay for the 2-Minute Film Festival and vice-versa.”

The Culture Club evening opens with picnic food and a bar in the Sculpture Court at 7:30 p.m. A $10 admission includes one drink ticket and all films. Food will be available for purchase with vegetarian options. Voting has been ongoing for an online award winner (http://2mff.cmoa.org/category/2014). There will also be a judge’‍s choice winner and a people’‍s choice award determined by voting on screening night.


Post-Gazette art critic Mary Thomas: mthomas@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1925.

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