Victims of Our Own Success
What began as a joke on Monday became a harsh reality tonight. We knew the success of our first screening would lead to a lot more people signing up for round two - possibly more than we could handle. It seemed like a privileged problem, so we welcomed the influx of interest. But come show time, we obviously miscalculated the math and underestimated people’s determination.
Part of what made our first Kino special was that it was an open invitation to the entire artistic community. Directors, camera operators and editors were pulled in from across the city, while an onslaught of actors came from as far from D.R. Congo. This lead to a great mix of people and very positive energy as everyone pulled together to get their films done in 48 hours. That same spirit once again prevailed over the past few days, even though, as organizers trying to work within a fixed timetable, we were actually betting against it.
Many teams rushed outside the theatre after the Monday night screening to brainstorm a film under our new theme “Bizarro World (le Monde à l’envers)”. Then everyone came Tuesday morning to sign out cameras. Dozens more actors enlisted to post their headshots on our window and a new schedule was developed to accommodate the popular demand for equipment. I left the lab for about an hour and came back to find our sign-up board filled to the brink with 19 teams enlisted to make films. Here’s the part where I foreshadow the fact we were only given a 45 minute timeslot for the screenings - including the Q&A with each director.
Another unforeseen complication was that this second Kino was midweek. The first was essentially a weekend affair, which meant a lot of production companies were able to lend us their equipment with minimal interference to their daily business. Some of those computers, cameras and even editors were no longer available to us, so we assumed many teams just wouldn’t find a means to finish their films under the even tighter restrains. So we kept the open-arms approach to who could make a film, assuming many wouldn’t find a means to get the job done.
By the time the curtain rose at 7:45pm, it looked like we were right - only about half the films were ready. So we paced out evening accordingly. But be damned if those other teams didn’t all rush into the projection booth during that next 45 minutes with hard drives and desperate pleas to be included.
Cynthia, the night’s MC and one of my students from 2007, was good enough to give us an extra 30 minutes to play more films. But with a feature film screening on our heels, and a couple false starts from glitchy files that were never properly tested, we had to wrap up our screening with no less than 5 films still sitting in the pipeline. One of the directors also had the terrible misfortune of having made a film for both screenings and neither were played (his was the only film we couldn’t squeeze in the first night, so we thought we would just play it Thursday). I was told afterwards he literally had tears in his eyes.
Our Kino manager Rudy, who worked like a manic for the past week, felt incredibly bad about how the night went behind-the-scenes, even if it was out of our control. The organizers at the festival simply didn’t believe we would be able to pull it off despite my early protests, and thought the 45-minute window they gave us was already generous. My spiteful solace was seeing the energetic and enthusiastic audience empty out after our screening with almost no one caring about the next “non-Kino” film. I’d like to say the festival should have known better, but maybe I should have too. With half a dozen unscreened films, and a number of others already in hot demand for repeat screenings, I’m going to have to organize a third (hopefully more relaxed) night to feed out growing demand.