September 3, 2004

The Free Form Film Festival at Media Arts Center San Diego

By Luis Alonso Pérez

Freedom to express, to create, to take pride in our culture, to experiment, to raise awareness, to laugh and to let the imagination run free.

Freedom is the common feature among the eclectic lineup of documentaries, video clips, and short films screened last Sunday at the Free Form Film Festival (FFFF) which took place at the Media Arts Center of San Diego (MACSD).

Around 7 pm the lights went off and the projector turned on. The atmosphere felt as relaxed as being at a friend’s living room, and for next ninety minutes the audience saw the work of independent filmmakers from the United States, Canada and Argentina that usually don’t have media access to show their material.

These are the type of events taking place in the “microcinema” at the Media Arts Center, the organization that puts together the annual San Diego Latino Film Festival, an eleven day event that shows more that a hundred movies and brings in around 15,000 attendants.

Unlike this big event, the FFFF is a small touring festival. Like its name indicates it’s free, traveling through small and large cities al over the country presenting a wide selection of videos and sometimes live music shows. Their mission is to exhibit the work of independent filmmakers and provide artistic and cultural inspiration to the communities in which the festival takes place.

For Ryan Wylie, filmmaker and co-founder of the FFFF, what sets apart this festival from others, is their interest to promote the work from independent producers that choose not to follow the conventional filmmaking structures, and instead let the form and the aesthetics make the content flow.

For their San Diego tour stop the organizers prepared a very diverse lineup. Ninety minutes of short films, documentaries, video clips and experimental video.

“Meander” is the name of the festival organizer’s favorite documentary. It’s an audiovisual tour about life in east Austin, Texas. “Meander is one of the short films that’s been in our lineup since we started” said Wylie “It looks like it was recorded with a 300 dollar camcorder, but it’s a very simple yet beautiful video.”

This three minute video directed by Tony de Aztlan and Dianne Zillioux portrays the human side of the residents from a very diverse community, taking us into a sad and melancholic atmosphere, where people appear and suddenly fade out, but they get to share their ideas with us and let us take a peak into their personal lives.

The war on Iraq was a common subject in the festival. Three short films exhibited their disapproval and criticism on President Bush’s actions and the military intervention in the Middle East.

“November is very close and if were not talking about this now, then what are we doing?” said Wylie, who considers himself a social activist, and reflects his posture trough his short films and documentaries.

One of the future plans for this festival is to tour through the main cities of South America, screening their material and incorporating new material from local film and video makers to their lineup.

Hosting the Free Form Film Festival is one of the efforts made by the Media Arts Center of San Diego to promote independent film and give cultural alternatives to the San Diego community.

The MACSD also organizes a monthly showcase called “Cinema en Tu Idioma” with the best and latest in Spanish language cinema. Providing San Diegans with the opportunity to see films that are normally not distributed in this region. They also have an open screening night featuring San Diego and Tijuana short films and videos in the “microcinema.”

The next Cinema en Tu Idioma screening will be on Mann theatres in Hazard Center, September 10-16, with the movie “Imagining Argentina” staring Antonio Banderas, Emma Thompson and Ruben Blades.

Another important project in the MACSD is called “Teen Producers Project”, a media literacy and video production program designed for youth from diverse economic and cultural backgrounds living in the San Diego/Tijuana border region. Over 200 teenagers participate every year and currently produce a monthly television show called TU VOZ TV.

For additional information regarding Media Arts Center San Diego visit their web page www.mediaarts For more information about the Free Form Film Festival and their next tour stop go to

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