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AFI Los Angeles International Film Festival October 30- November 7, 2009
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From AFI reflexions on Love in the time of technology


By JANE MOUNTAIN, Contributing Writer for AFI online dailies

Technology has invaded and seized control of our world. Computers are as common as cars, and on the street we listen to our iPods, talk on our cell phones, and punch keys on our PDAs. Technology has also led to a revolution in filmmaking, from special effects-laden blockbusters, to independent shorts, to the thousands of homemade mini-movies shared on YouTube every day.

Whether this is a good thing - for humans, for the environment or for the art of filmmaking - is still a hot topic of debate. Weighing in on the debate, four AFI FEST films shine a particuarly focused light on our world in the technological age.

Set at the dawn of the computer age, JJ Lask's ON THE ROAD WITH JUDAS, based on his novel of the same name, tells the story of Judas (Aaron Ruell, Eddie Kaye Thomas), a young man obsessed with stealing the original Mac computers. "Judas struggles with technology... He can't deal with it, he can't understand it, he can't tame it. So he does the most primitive thing he can. He takes it, he steals it, he hunts it. I think a lot of people are going through that,"says Lask.

To tell this relatively simple story, Lask employs a complex structure and timeline, in which the actors from the movie version of his book and the 'real' people who inspired the book gather at a talk show to chat about the story. Even the character of JJ Lask, played by Kevin Corrigan, is interviewed on the show by the real JJ Lask, who plays the talk show host.

Wilson (Scoot McNairy), the protagonist of IN SEARCH OF A MIDNIGHT KISS, a comic love story by writer-director Alex Holdridge, has better luck with technology. He is a lonely newcomer to Los Angeles, who, after some browbeating from his DJ roommate (Brian McGuire), searches for a date on Craig's List. Through the ad he meets Vivian (Sara Simmonds), an acerbic aspiring actress who, after suffering an untimely break-up with her boyfriend, is auditioning potential dates for New Year's Eve.

"The use of technology in the film is a total reflection of reality. We wanted to make a version of L.A. that represents the L.A. that we live in,"says Holdridge. "Actually connecting with someone on a personal level in L.A. is so difficult... It makes technology, as a way of meeting people in L.A., so much more important."

The experimental short, UNTITLED #2 by Valerie Brewer, is remarkable because of the technology that was used to create it. The film follows a female avatar on a journey through the virtual world of Second Life, a 3-D online world where intimate connections are made with virtual representations of people. "I wanted to use Second Life initially because I was interested in the study of everyday life and how it is duplicated in video games and other virtual arenas,"says Brewer.

For some people, an intimate connection can be had with the computer itself. Sarah J Christman's DEAR BILL GATES uses a one-sided virtual relationship with Bill Gates to explore our visual history, from the first cave paintings to today's electronic images, that can be endlessly, perfectly reproduced. "I wanted to make a film about my relationship with my computer,"says Christman. "Your computer is immediate and dynamic, it can be an extension of your creative self. But it often feels like the enemy, a restriction, isolating you from the sensory world."

It is this inherent contradiction that is at the heart of these four films. Technology can feel like an enemy, but without it, as the filmmakers admit, none of these films would ever have been made.


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