Here's my problem with film festivals: the cinematic works they feature don't show enough stuff done getting blowed up. Where are the laser-guided air-to-surface missiles? Where is the detonator that goes kablammo if the bus drops below 50 MPH or the beer bucket rises above 50 degrees? Enough already. No more talky indies in which depressed screenwriters find solace and redemption in the arms of cute, quirky phlebotomists who have a Samsonite warehouse worth of baggage of their own, please. Really. Judging by this summer's offerings from Hollywoodland, you'd think we were all smoking clove cigarettes and wearing berets.
Thus when I came across the Coldwell Banker Online International Real Estate Film Festival the other day, I expected my list of grievances would run 50 metres (that's European for "a little more than a yard") long. Given the placement of the words "film" and "festival" in close proximity, I expected all sorts of overstyled, unsubtle meditations on home as a metaphor - "home can be atop a cell-phone tower or in the middle of an abandoned Wal-Mart parking lot, because home is right in here [gestures furiously at own chest]." Owing to Coldwell Banker's involvement, I expected each clip to end with a flurry of geotargeted links to available houses in my immediate vicinity.
Imagine the surprise, then, when I checked out the first four clips of the series and found them to be… good? Yes, good. The low-culture cognoscenti are gonna come for my tank tops and Kid Rock CDs, aren't they?
The videos - to be parceled out at the pace of one per schoolday through September 27 - are a secondary volley in Coldwell's "Value of a Home" campaign, one of the grander-scale rah-rah-real-estate! pushes since the recession took everybody's home equity behind the woodshed. While the four clips that have aired so far are about 90 seconds too short for the filmmakers to get any semblance of a point across, they're beautifully shot and edited. More importantly, they forge an emotional connection that, for all their intimate involvement in the lives of their customers, real-estate companies have never really bothered to nurture. There's a real sweetness to the clips; they feel like a labor of love.
"The Emirati Home" (United Arab Emirates) shows family, religious and cultural traditions flourishing amid the modern contrivances of a newer home, while "Adauto in the Woods" (Brazil) contrasts the house's tranquil, east-of-the-tree-line setting with the anywhere, anyplace activities that take place within (e.g., a teenage daughter checking her makeup in the mirror). In "Watson" (United States), faux-narrated by a dog with an accent that suggests Crocodile Dundee on a Benzedrine kick, the titular canine romps around a multi-level house until he finally happens upon his beloved human buddies. Only "At Home in the Rainbow Nation" (South Africa) feels slight, owing to the impossibility of encapsulating the country's diversity in a tidy minute-long package.
The first four film festival entries don't linger on the homes themselves, which is precisely the point: What Coldwell Banker is going for here is a universality-of-experience thing. A home might be located in the back alleys of Khartoum or in post-industrial London; it might have platinum-embossed sink fixtures or netted window panes. But there's a certain human commonality to "home." It's family. It's food. It's pets and pictures and throw pillows and drunk uncles and all that other stuff.
I don't know that the film festival and the other "Value of a Home" campaign components are going to send me flying into Coldwell Banker's arms the next time I'm in need. Like with everything else, I'm going to go with the company that handled a friend or family member's most recent real-estate transaction without accidentally handing over the deed to a drifter. But it's nice to see one of the bigger guys trying, at least. It's about time somebody in this line of business did.