what the **** is arthouse film?

When I say I am a co-curator for Ae Arthouse Film Festival, people only seem to hear “blardeeblardeefilmfestival.” In fact, I usually get a response akin to:

But no more. I am here to put a stop to all this rubbish. What the **** is arthouse film? I will guide you to a place of understanding. To do so, I will not prattle through dictionary definitions such as,

“A film intended to be a serious artistic work, often experimental and not designed for mass appeal.”

These definitions muddle already vague concepts. What is “serious artistic work?” Films that makes you cry instead of smile? Sculptures that don’t laugh at your jokes? Giant portraits of my older brother? And who is the “mass” in “mass appeal?” If I picked ten people in a coffee shop, would they find the same things appealing? If so, they would be wearing the same Doc Martens, drinking the same Café con Miel, and making out with the same person in the back hallway. This is neither accurate, nor sanitary.

So what the **** is arthouse film, then?

I can ship off this question to Ae Film Festival Lead Curator/Festival Director Jes Reyes, whom I find more interesting than a dictionary.

According to Jes,

“I consider [arthouse film] an approach in filmmaking. I think this is because of how this genre lends itself to honesty, particularly in away that produces works that explore a reality rather than construct a reality.” As Jes so eloquently puts it, arthouse film provokes thought through images and subject.

How do I define arthouse film, you ask? I will quote a young, fresh mind when I say,

“Arthouse film is…umm…”-Ari Newman

From this riveting response, we can infer the following:

“Art is showing the outside world what ones inside world looks like.”-Ari Newman

Defining arthouse film is defining art. The meaning not only differs with every person, but it morphs within each of us as we experience love, beauty, tragedy, the electrifying and the mundane.

But I promised not to prattle off definitions? Very well. Even better, let’s review a submission together. Let’s dive into the mind of a curator as she reviews a film for the festival. For the artists’ privacy, I shall not review one of Ae’s current candidates. Instead, let’s watch a video we’ve never seen before…

Before we begin, let’s grab a notebook so that we can take notes as we go. I do have a few pointers from my limited expertise. Write down moments or images that plant a thought fungus in your brain, which grows for the rest of the film. Observe the soundscape, the colors, your own feelings as the film progresses. Initial reactions are key when watching submissions. You want to see the film like your festival attendants will see the film: With little knowledge prior to viewing.

How did that go? I found the contrast between green empty tire swing shots and little kid shots more distracting than evocative. Perhaps our filmmaker could have color-corrected. The film begins and ends with an empty tire swing, with filled swings in the middle. Judging by the title, I miss them, I get the feeling that the filmmaker misses these little kids on the swings. Are the kids dead? Did they move? Do they really exist? The soundscape exacerbates an eerie mood, because honestly, there is nothing creepier than a tiny kid’s voice. Overall, I think this film is the seed of something meaningful, but it feels incomplete.

Now, I’m not naming names, but our mock submission, I miss them, was most likely made in twenty minutes from footage found on ones computer. And I bet that filmmaker learned a little something about arthouse film: it doesn’t have to take more than twenty minutes. Indeed, it doesn’t have to take more than white-balancing a red skirt with your T5i Rebel, creating murky green tire swing, and contrasting that footage with memories of your little brothers on swings. Granted, that little film should use more than twenty minutes Despite its flaws, I miss them epressed something. It allowed the filmmake to explore their nostalgia for last spring, when they could go to the park with their brothers. I miss them showed the outside world a snapshot of the filmmaker’s inside world.

A great question remains: Do we have the right to tell this filmmaker that their work is not arthouse film? Could we technically label anything as arthouse film — from Blue’s Clues to Jersey Shore, from Amélie to Star Wars — because all of these films came from people? Do you have a headache yet?

Great. Now you know a bit about the ambiguous world of curating an arthouse film festival. However, the best way to understand what the **** arthouse film is, is to make one yourself. That’s right. You can submit a film! Film your dog. Film your friends. Film your sandwich. Hell, let your spirit free and simply throw all three things together. Title it ‘Dog. Friends. Sandwich.’ If it means something to you, chances are it will mean something to someone else. And once you film your arthouse film, chances are, you will want a film festival to go with it. So you will submit to Ae Arthouse Film Festival by going to this link:

And chances are, once you submit to the Ae Arthouse Film Festival…

You will want to film another arthouse film.

Soms spreek ik Nederlands.

Soms spreek ik Nederlands.