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Review: Dancin' just thinkin' about it

Our fifth annual short-film festival really moves
By PORTLAND PHOENIX STAFF  |  November 24, 2010

Best Documentary
Makeshift
DIRECTED BY DAVID CAMLIN AND PETRA SIMMONS

Like much good art, Makeshift begins inelegantly. It is a bright afternoon, with Anna Hepler curiously wandering the sub-level dumping pit of a noisy waste facility. Trash is everywhere. On the top level, a couple sweeps wholesale offal from the flatbed of their pick-up truck, and Hepler perks up. Soon she is pulling giant swaths of thick plastic tarp from the pile as the couple looks down at her, a little stumped. Indelicately, she crams the filthy tarp into the trunk of her hatchback.

In Makeshift, the 12-minute documentary vivifying Hepler's 2010 Portland Museum of Art installation, filmmakers David Camlin and Petra Simmons take a keen hands-off approach. They follow Hepler everywhere, letting the artist's voiceover explain the many steps along the tarp's repurposing as a material in the gigantic, latticed, 3D installation that presided over the center of the museum's lobby all summer like a collapsing zeppelin at a four-way stoplight. Though Camlin and Simmons feel conspicuously absent at times, Hepler's eloquent words are is well edited and sequenced. As she playfully inflates her colorfully-stitched balloon forms, her erudite narration gushes about her obsession with materials and the wonderment of process, themes that would be less accessible if covered in a traditional interview.

Camlin and Simmons have plans to extrapolate Makeshift into a feature-length film sometime in late 2011. In the meantime, we'd love to see another short in the pool for next year's documentary prize.

NICHOLAS SCHROEDER

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