Cafe Witness

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Baghead: Big Screen Social Media?

Ann and I saw Baghead last night, a pseudo-horror comedy love story docudrama thing. It was part of Pittsburgh Filmmakers' ongoing promotion with the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, in which attendees of a film are invited to stay afterward at the Harris Theater and discuss the film over free food and drink.

Most of the folks in attendance last night enjoyed the film in the same way you might enjoy seeing your kid sister in a high school play -- at best, she did better than you expected, and at worst, it's a phase she'll grow out of. Ann and I, on the other hand, really enjoyed it, but that's because we recognize it for what it is: a big-screen version of what we're already doing.

Baghead is the story of four struggling (read: ne'er employed) actors in LA who, after sitting through a mediocre film at a film festival, decide they can do better than that. So they drive up to a cabin in Big Bear and set out to write their dream movie, the kind that will make them all stars. Of course, egos and sexual tension get in the way. And then there's the guy who keeps showing up at their window with a bag over his head...

It's a simple story that plays with genre conventions, but it's also a triumph of the DIY aesthetic, mining some of the same territory as The Blair Witch Project. But where that earlier film was groundbreaking in so many ways, Baghead is almost its direct descendent, proof that its conceits -- handheld cameras, shot on DV, improvised dialogue, self-referential awareness -- work even better in this age of videoblogging and microcinema.

Classical cinephiles might not place Baghead in the same category as Lawrence of Arabia, and they'd be right not to; it's a little movie about a (relatively) little thing. But we social media types should be rooting for the success of a film like Baghead, because it's a big-screen version of what we're all aspiring to create: it helps break down the barrier of expectation between film fans who only appreciate grandiose spectacle and those of us who believe you can still tell an engaging story on even the most meager means.

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