“The current abundance of cheap consumer technology means that almost anyone can now make films—of a sort. But does it follow that we may all call ourselves filmmakers?” Mark Le Fanu asks in the September 2007 issue of Sight and Sound (article not available online).
This provocative question is inspired in part by the fact that several major international festivals have picked up a 70-minute feature film by Dutch filmmaker Cyrus Frisch shot entirely on Frisch’s camera-phone. Frisch’s Why Didn’t Anyone Tell Me It Would Be This Bad in Afghanistan is a silent film following the paranoiac decline of a veteran of the war in Afghanistan from his own grainy, low-res point of view.
Frisch used an older camera-phone with only a 3.2 megapixel resolution, even though resolutions of up to 10 megapixels are increasingly common. Le Fanu speculates that this aided the project: “[The] impact of Frisch’s film depends on its amateur-looking graininess: the sense of an onlooker at the scene of a disaster, recording what’s happening on the spot.”
Le Fanu writes that the limitations of the technology translated well in this project, because it matched the main character’s confused state. However, Le Fanu dismisses the camera-phone’s lasting cinematic impact: “It would seem...that the closer mobile phones get to the clarity of ordinary cameras, the less interesting they become as artistic tools.”
But Le Fanu dramatically overstates this point. Cinema benefits from film technology being more ubiquitous, as the beautiful, now-classic films of the French poetic realism or Italian neorealism movements demonstrate. Directors outside of the big-budget mainstream will and should use any available technology to make moving pictures, and I, for one, eagerly await the next crossover camera-phone auteur.