"Journey to Planet X," one of our best bets, screens this afternoon and again on Saturday at the Little Rock Film Festival. Kyle Brazzel previewed the film and interviewed filmmaker Myles Kane last week. Check out the full feature and interview here.
In 2002, filmmakers Myles Kane and Josh Koury were accepting submissions for Brooklyn Underground, a festival they were programming, when they first saw one of the sci-fi films made by Florida auteurists — and professional scientists — Eric Swain and Troy Bernier. Kane and Koury simultaneously rejected and embraced the film, a medieval fantasy titled "The Brief Spell." Their reasons for rejecting it (for the festival) and embracing it (as an obsession) were the same: Its Ed-Wood-ian delusions of grandeur, combined with an endearing and utter lack of technical skill or narrative surefootedness. Privately, Kane and Koury began watching "The Brief Spell" on regular rotation, and showing it to friends at parties.
When the two resumed programming the festival in 2003, "we started having a serious conversation," says Kane, who in addition to filmmaking works as the video and audio producer for newyorker.com, the Web site of The New Yorker. The conversation went like this: "We've seen lots of bad films, and most bad films we never want to see again," Kane recalls. "Why do we keep celebrating their work?"
Kane and Koury not only accepted "The Brief Spell" into Brooklyn Underground, but they embarked on a three-year period of trailing Swain and Bernier as they wrote, produced, and filmed "Planet X Part II: The Frozen Moon," the amateur filmmakers' latest low-budget, fantasy-scape labor of love.
"Journey to Planet X," Kane's and Koury's film about the making of "Planet X," screens at 8 p.m. Thursday and 1:20 p.m. Saturday — along with "Planet X" itself — at the Little Rock Film Festival, coincidentally the same week that the magazine where Kane works has published its first Science Fiction issue. In that issue, the author Colson Whitehead reflects on his boyhood ardor for schlocky fantasy and horror films, in terms that also seem to account for the oeuvre of filmmakers like Swain and Bernier, who certainly must be aware that low- to no-budget films no longer have to indicate the production value of a George Lucas production as interpreted by a rural high school theater troupe.
In his New Yorker essay, Whitehead calls this style of filmmaking "ritualized mediocrity," but the artlessness, he believes, is far from willful. In fact, it's the complete opposite. "This is what I understood about art: its very existence was credential enough," Whitehead writes. "If it had posters and TV ads and contained within its frames actual human beings who had posed before cameras and mouthed words, it satisfied the definition of a movie, and that was enough for me."
Read the Q&A here.