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Thursday, October 1, 2009
Various, and sundry
140 filmmakers in 140 locations worldwide will be synchronized through the website Twitter.com to film 140 seconds at the same time.
140 (2009) | Review
A Film by Social Network
The title comes from the one hundred forty character limit of tweets. Social media is in itself an interesting phenomenon. Many people now follow news, celebrities, even our friends' lives through tweets or Facebook status postings. But the film really isn't about social media per se. It makes use of social media to help us see the connections that can be facilitated through these tools. Using Twitter's 140 character limit as a structure, Kelly recruited (through online ads) 140 volunteer film makers to make films at 140 locations throughout the world simultaneously (8:00 p.m. GMT on Father's Day 2009). Each film was 140 seconds. The general theme (again building on the idea of social media) was connections: What are we connected to? What things connect us?
Films came from twenty-tree countries on five continents. (Africa is an obvious missing piece, but not by design.) The various films range from professionally made pieces to some shot on cell phones—even one that is made of Polaroid camera stills. Topically there are several recurring themes. There are some where filmmakers filmed their children—or gave their children the camera. Some filmed nature. Some filmed roads and bridges. Some used the opportunity to say who they are or to mount their soapbox. There were some that focused on food. Some looked at the creative process itself. Some were very mundane, but homey. Some had a more esoteric quality. One showed a Muslim woman in prayer. There is one marriage proposal.
The key to this working, of course, is editing. Even with several filmmakers who didn't send their work (you can't always rely on those Internet contacts, can you?), Kelly ended up with over forty hours of material. Part of his assumption was that each person's vision was as valid as the next. So how do you whittle down all that film to a watchable length? Some of the films we see large sections of. Some we see only a few seconds. Some fill the screen; others are seen in montages. A few times we go back and forth between similar films.
"Connections" was the perfect topic to suggest to the filmmakers. That is what social media is all about. As we watch films made by people all over the world, we are connected in a new way. We get to see their vision and get an understanding of those things they consider important enough to spend 140 seconds telling us about. Social media often seems to be about giving everyone a voice. Anyone can tweet his or her thoughts, whether profound or simple. Maybe those thoughts are only noted by a few friends, or maybe by thousands of followers. Does it really bring us closer together?
The unfortunate thing about social media is that often we only listen to those we want to hear. For social media to a become tool of true communication, it must find ways to help us hear voices from many perspectives. 140 is an attempt—a beginning of an attempt—to see if that can be done as film.
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