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Over the past few years, the face of short films has changed dramatically. For one thing, the Internet has made it easier to watch them.

Flicker Festival's spring season begins 

Tending film's flame

Flicker Festival
Cat's Cradle, Carrboro
Wednesday, Jan. 31, doors 8 p.m., screenings 8:30 p.m.
Admission: $3
Info: www.flickerfestival.com

click to enlarge Portland, Ore., filmmaker Karl Lind's "Disconnected" will screen at Flicker. - PHOTO COURTESY OF FLICKER FESTIVAL
  • Photo courtesy of Flicker Festival
  • Portland, Ore., filmmaker Karl Lind's "Disconnected" will screen at Flicker.

Over the past few years, the face of short films has changed dramatically. For one thing, the Internet has made it easier to watch them.

When the Oscar nominations were announced last week, most of the nominees for best live-action or animated short were going viral on YouTube and other sites. There's also the matter of digital video, which has resulted in thousands upon thousands of short films being made quickly and cheaply.

With changes like these, the long-running Flicker event in Carrboro seems almost old-fashioned. Its Jan. 31 event at Cat's Cradle will be like every other Flicker since 1994, featuring only shorts originally shot on film. Though it originated in Chapel Hill, Flicker now has chapters around the world, ranging from New York to Prague to Frankfurt. This expansion is reflected in the theme for the Jan. 31 screening, nicknamed "The Wild Wild West Flicker" by Nicole Triche, Flicker's director since 2004.

"All of the films are either from the Western United States, Western Canada or Western Europe," says Triche, who adds that she picked the theme based on the international flavor of the submissions.

In spite of the near-total dominance of digital video among upstart filmmakers today, Norwood Cheek, who founded Flicker, says the festival will never include DV. "There are hundreds of festivals geared towards that," Cheek says in an e-mail from Los Angeles, where he now resides. "Flicker fills a niche, and by requiring the film to originate on film, we give filmmakers who are much more underground and on the fringes a chance to shine.

"The point is not to put film and technology on a pedestal, but to put the filmmaker's ideas and intentions and dreams in the spotlight, and give them a chance to show their film in front of a very open-minded audience."

Triche says 11 films will be screened at the Jan. 31 Flicker. She is particularly excited about two animations from Meghann Artes of California: "Süss" and "Soup," a Sesame Street-esque piece about the letters of the alphabet (videos are available at www.meghannartes.com). "I like those films a lot, because they're different," Triche says.

"Different" seems to be the key theme linking the films screened at Flicker. The November Flicker, which Cheek attended, showcased fare ranging from Frank Sun's well-crafted melodrama "Sorry Goodbye" to Nathan Christ's offbeat relationship study "Paper Balls" to more strange, visually based works such as Mario Nespeca's surreal "Refrigeration" and Cheek's own "Cold?", a clever short done in one continuous backward take.

Cheek, a strong supporter of Triche, feels that Flicker's film-only policy forces those filmmakers to take their craft more seriously. "You're shooting a roll of film that lasts around three minutes, whereas for the same cost you could shoot on DV for an hour," Cheek says. "So, therefore, you're going to think about it more, treat those three minutes like they are very special, and the results will prove it."

Cheek says the continuing success of Flicker, along with newer festivals such as Hi Mom!, shows that the filmmaking scene in the Triangle has "energy and passion." "I've always been astounded by the quality and range of films and ideas that Chapel Hill filmmakers present," Cheek says. "It's a wonderful environment—I miss it!"

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