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Sixty-second cinema 

AFCOOP celebrates the 10th anniversary of their One Minute Film program with a special "best of" screening and DVD.

Every spring the Atlantic Filmmakers' Cooperative rolls out the proverbial red carpet to celebrate its most recent crop of new one-minute filmmakers. Two-thousand-and-nine brings the 10-year anniversary of the One Minute Film scholarship program, and a special screening dedicated to showing off some of the more successful one-minute films.

The co-op was initially born in 1999 out of a desire by filmmakers Andrea Dorfman and Helen Bredin to give filmmaking equipment and mentorship to those who might not otherwise know it's accessible to them, with the goal to create films that are more representative of the larger Halifax community.

"We got $20,000 the first year from the Canada Council for the Arts," says Walter Forsyth, current executive director of AFCOOP, "so we hired Lis van Berkel to be the director for the first year and 20 people made their first one-minute film, and some of those are even selected in the 'best of' we're screening."

The films included in the Best of OMF screening are good examples of the possibilities of storytelling within a tiny timeframe: 1999's Africville...My Home, by Terry Dixon, has a father telling his young daughter about Halifax's storied Africville. The Old Crick, a 2006 film by Sonia Edworthy, tells the story of the Halifax Common, while 2008's Glamour Guts, by Jasmine Oore, is a primer on how to stay fabulous in the midst of chronic bowel trouble.

The jury was looking for "diversity of mediums, diversity of participants, diversity of formats," says Forsyth. "There were lots of animations and they could have chosen more, but obviously, it wouldn't be good to have 10 animations, or 10 dramatic ones, or 10 experimental ones.

"Traditionally, at least 50 percent of the participants in the program have been from a diverse community, so that was part of it as well---making sure that people's stories were diverse."

Dorfman, who sat on the programming jury and writes an introduction that will accompany the Best of One Minute Film DVD, says that after 100-plus one-minute films were screened, the sheer volume of unique stories and different ways to tell them made an impression on her.

"I think they are the ones that we, the jury, emotionally responded to the most," Dorfman says about the 10 that were eventually chosen. "Either there was a degree of honesty that struck a chord or there was a film technique that we found to be impressive. They impressed us each in a different way. There were three people on the jury, but we were pretty unanimous in the ones that we chose."

Remarkably, for a program that spans 10 years of filmmaking, there is a real consistency in the quality and the aesthetic of the films. All of the films look like time-capsules from the same era, so you would be hard-pressed to determine an exact date for Sherry White's 1999 Girl at the Window if only compared to Rebecca Singer's Ramblers: Halifax Synchronized Bike Team from 2008.

"Most of them are in black and white, which creates a certain nostalgia," Forsyth says. "They're in 16mm film and the graininess of it has a nostalgia feel to it as well."

Seeing as it has been a fixture on their education and training calendars for the past 10 years, the OMF has created a legacy for AFCOOP. Quantifying that legacy---that is, measuring the success of the OMF---has been done by the co-op by asking a simple question: Who graduated from the program and what did they do afterwards? Forsyth cites Vision TV's SOUL producer and previous OMF grad Floyd Kane as an example of the kind of success story AFCOOP is proud of, but the co-op also wanted to know if one-minute filmmakers continued to take more classes and make more films with the co-op. Forsyth says this number is about 20 percent of all participants.

He also points to two less obvious areas of success for the program. First, OMF's ability to entice artists from other mediums like dance and theatre into working with film, and secondly: "The program has become an integral part of our operations, for sure. It's an exciting thing. People making their first films get pretty excited about it and that rubs off on everybody at the co-op."

One Minute Film 10th anniversary scholarship screening, Tuesday, March 31 at Empire 8, Park Lane, 7pm, $7, 420-4572,

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