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Jameson Empire Done In 60 Seconds 2012 – Finalists Chosen

Friday saw the semi-finals of the Jameson Empire Done In 60 Seconds (JEDISS) film competition makes its way to the London Film Museum, adorned in all the finery expected of the two massive companies behind it. Whilst it’s probably safe to say that Empire handled most of the “film” side of things, Jameson certainly brought their A-game (and an ungodly amount of their flagship whiskey, dressed up in some damaging cocktails), leaving everyone merrier than they likely thought they’d be. But, of course, you’re not reading for the whiskey reviews; let’s talk about JEDISS 2012.

The idea is a simple one, to be found in film societies and media studies classes around the globe: take a feature film from any period in cinematic history, and make an adaptation or interpretation of it that lasts a maximum of sixty seconds. Everything within those seconds is entirely up to the filmmakers; it’s a competition that rewards experimentation and ingenuity, rather than high budgets and absolute fidelity to the source material. No-one wants to see a minute-long trailer of the film; they want to see what it would be like if Michael Bay had actually made Transformers: Dark of the Moon last only sixty seconds (or, let’s say, if Kubrick had attempted the same). You get the idea; make a mini version of a film, and make it wonderful.

Around the world, the competition has been blazing onwards over the past year, with over five hundred entries, including bids from countries as far flung as Chile and Kazakhstan. Over the past few weeks this was been whittled down to a final semi-finals pool of twenty-nine films, with representatives hailing from the UK, Ireland, Chile, Kazakhstan, Sweden, India, Russia, Belgium and more. Now it was up to the crack panel of judges to pare this group down to a pristine, hallowed five, who will go forward to the finals, held alongside the Jameson Empire Awards 2012 on Sunday 25th. In other words, one of the winners tonight will potentially be gracing the same stage as some of the biggest names in the film industry. It’s a massive opportunity, and the excitement is palpable.

The judging panel was made up of a handful of familiar faces. Chris O’Dowd was the immediate crowd favourite, putting aside his ambulatory difficulties for the evening (he has recently undergone surgery in one – or both, I have no idea – of his legs, and can only get himself around using crutches) in order to regale those assembled with his Irish wit and penchant for Irish whiskey. Gareth Edwards, director of 2010’s MONSTERS (as well as the upcoming GODZILLA movie, and another project which he is absolutely dead-set on revealing nothing about, save for it being “sci-fi”) and thus a favourite of any DIY film event, served as something of a technical guru for the judging process. Mark Dinning, editor of Empire Magazine, lent his expertise to the panel, cheerfully stating that virtually all the films were great, in order to dispel any sense of favouritism he might have (perhaps in the process misunderstanding what a judge actually does). And finally, TV and radio presenter Alex Zane, with boisterous enthusiasm, rounding off the fleet of judges, loving absolutely every moment of it.

The DISS entries shown on the night were all the 29 semi-finalist entries, divided into sub-genres such as Action-Adventure, Drama, and the ever-popular Mixed Bag. To describe the films is a daunting task, especially considering their brevity; they are still up at the Jameson Empire DISS Youtube page for the curious, and absolutely merit a look. A vivid retelling of THE THING hails from the UK’s Simon Jago, whilst the Ukraine is represented by Nataliya Shevchenko’s product placement-happy version of Se7en. As it turns out, bottles of Jameson whiskey make for very versatile props in a wide variety of situations; a Russian mini version of THE GODFATHER (with almost unfairly good production values) played out, as Chris O’Dowd described, “Like an actual Jameson commercial, shot-for-shot.”

After the films were screened and the judges were left to deliberate amongst themselves (which took a good fifteen minutes, during which time the assembled semi-finalists all appeared to vivaciously ply themselves with further free alcohol to wash away the nerves), the final five were announced, all of which being crowd favourites. From Ireland, Andrew Norton’s DISTRICT 9, which replaced the aliens of the original with hapless clowns; from Kazakhstan, Indira Suleimenova’s BLACK SWAN, which followed a young ballerina’s quest to become Natalie Portman; from Bulgaria, Rosen Iliev’s EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, which combined some beautiful animation with some hilariously crude humour; from Chile, Gonzalo Ruiz’s SPIDERMAN, the most hyperactive and crazed the teen superhero has ever been portrayed; and from here in Blighty, Philip Askins and his RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, an animated odyssey with Indy at his most fed-up.

As a tribute to independent filmmakers and their inspirations and influences, the Jameson Empire DISS competition is one of the best, with the hosts flying in all the semi-finalists and putting them up in swanky hotels just so that we might have the pleasure of glimpsing some of the big(ger)-budget talent of tomorrow. With a pleasingly international array of finalists going through to the big kids’ party on Sunday, it looks like a collection of wannabe film legends are finding a major break.

Nash Sibanda is a film student and aspiring blogger. He has dabbled in film scoring, songwriting, poetry and will one day finish his Great British Novel. Until then, he will watch films to his heart's content, stopping occasionally to ramble some nonsense about them.

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