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The Sweded Film Festival: Short, cheap, and out of control!

by Susan and Simon Veness

Living rooms across the country have taken the place of movie theaters in a year when nobody wants to sit next to strangers, and binge-watching has become a national pastime. Now, movie buffs can create their own films, the “cheaper and more out of control” the better.

sweded film festival

Like many pre-2020 live events, The Sweded Film Festival for Creative Re-Creations—which started in Pittsburgh in 2017 and became a local tradition—is going virtual, opening up to participants and viewers nationwide.

sweded film festival

The festival’s premise is simple: film makers from amateur to pro are invited to remake classic movies using whatever they have on hand, and starring whomever they can recruit to help them. Whether it’s remaking “Lawrence of Arabia” in a sandbox or using kitchen utensils to make Peter Pan fly, the more wacky, creative, and intentionally or unintentionally hilarious the outcome, the more the movie suits what The Sweded Film Festival is all about.

How did this crazy concept come about? It’s down to Michael Gondry’s  film, “Be Kind, Rewind” shown at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, in which all of a failing video rental store’s VHS movies are accidentally erased by a “magnetized” man who enters the shop, and a staff member quickly recreates movies using everyday items, cheap special effects, and himself and the townspeople as actors.

Brian Mendelssohn, owner of Pittsburgh’s Row House Cinema, explains the thinking behind going nationwide during a pandemic year: “Movie lovers have spent all spring and summer watching and re-watching their favorite movies and yearning for a creative outlet, so 2020 is the perfect year to bring Sweded films to a national audience. We’re all feeling off-kilter and weird these days, and that’s what Sweded films are all about. We can’t wait to see what film fans across the country have to show us – let’s see ʼem short, cheap and out of control!”

Sweded Film Festival - Princess Bride - Previous Winner

Entries will be accepted from now through Nov. 15 on Rowhouse Online. A $10 “entry ticket” is required to upload films, but it also includes a free viewing of The Sweded Festival for Creative Re-Creations. A panel of judges will review all submissions, select entrants to be part of the final product, and award cash prizes for the best “Sweded” movies, which will be used in a feature-length compilation film.

Submission rules apply, including the requirement that films are no longer than 5 minutes and rate no higher than PG-13. Films will premiere on Nov. 30 in virtual cinemas, and, where possible, in select cinemas nationwide.

Sweded Film Festival - Jaws - Previous Winner

Grab your cell phone, some household props, and your friends, and get movie-making! For more information, full set of rules, a link to submitting, and to view past winners, visit Rowhouse Online.

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