July 25-27, Red Rock Tavern, 369 Capitol Ave., Hartford, (860) 830-6222, see bottom of article for registration information
This weekend, for the third time in three years, the Capitol Cinema Collective will arm dozens of people with single-use video cameras for LoResFest. Over a 24-hour period, participants can shoot whatever they want inside Hartford borders. By design, it's chaotic and sprawling, and there's no way to predict what the final product will be like. And for CCC co-founder and LoResFest editor Helder Mira, not knowing what footage people will bring back is part of the fun.
"We're not going to tell people what they should do," Mira said. "As the editor and organizer, I want to be surprised by what people shoot."
The first two years of LoResFest, participants using the handheld, point-and-shoot cameras filmed a mix of different styles. The single-use cameras, bought at CVS pharmacies, make film-making readily accessible for anyone interested in participating. (A short film-making lesson, Mira said, packs a semester's worth of filmmaking classes into 15 minutes.)
While other cities have similarly collaborative film projects, the Hartford collective is unique in its use of cheap and easy cameras. Instead of being created by film students and professionals, these movies are the work of Hartford residents who want to document or create a story. As a result, they provide a unique glimpse into the city's collective unconscious.
"The disposable cameras that hit the market, that's the thing that helped us push it," CCC founding member Sam Hatch said. "Otherwise, we couldn't get cameras out to 30 people. It's great because then we can see people who aren't out to be the next Spielberg, and just have a unique story they want to tell."
The LoResFest films have featured mini-movies about vampires, elementary school-age super villains, satirical promotions of downtown Hartford luxury developments, stuffed animals coping with heartbreak, party-seeking Mexican wrestlers (one of whom may have written this very article) and more. In the documentary segments, filmmakers present the history of Hartford's movie theaters, Durham Street resident D.B. Grant ruminates about trees and education and interviewers explore the breakfast habits of Hartford's citizens.
"There were a lot of stories and a lot of skits, plus a lot of documentary-style filmmaking," Mira said. "That's what makes it interesting. There's a mix of people who are experienced with filmmaking and people who are obviously making a movie for the first time. When we edit it together, it's hard to say who's done what."
Hartford becomes as much a character in the films as any of the human participants. The films spotlight Hartford neighborhoods and areas that even some residents may not know. For example, participants in the first LoResFest filmed inside the Old State House museum, documenting its curious taxidermy displays.
Mira is currently working to find sponsors to expand LoResFest, possibly holding it several times a year and doing a kids-only version.
"We're trying to bring some sort of art cinema to Hartford," Mira said. "We're not just presenting people with films, we're inviting people to be part of filmmaking."