What is SMIBE? Is it a brand of paint? Or maybe a government agency? No, it’s something much more interesting: the Society for Moving Images about the Built Environment. The Los Angeles-based, volunteer-run organization just announced the winners of its inaugural “Story About a Place” competition, which looked for short films (less than 6 minutes long) that “reveal new sides or issues about a place told by memorable characters.” The competition, which launched last fall, received over 90 entries from 13 countries.
In the student category the jury chose two winners: Matthew Bendure’s Matthaei Botanical Gardens, a visual essay about a greenhouse complex whose warm, verdant, highly-mechanized environment contrasts starkly with the bleak, frozen winter of Ann Arbor, Michigan just outside; and Allyson Oar’s Adapt, a film about unique, informally-created areas of Portland, Oregon, like its homemade skatepark under the Burnside Bridge, and the city’s “not-so-homeless” collection of handmade dwellings called Dignity Village.
In the general category, no first prize was handed out, but four films were noted as finalists. They included Ilai Arad, Ernst Kabel, and Bart-Jan Polman’s Opinions or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Palast, a community-wide reflection on East Germany’s former political headquarters, the Palast der Republik, which was recently torn down; Jo Barnett’s Tale From No Where, a story narrating the intimate experiences that revolve around normally ignored, tiny public spaces; Jooyoung Chung’s A Letter from Joon-Su, which reveals the lonely, faceless experience of an immigrant as he drives through LA’s freeways (which begin to take on a life of their own); and Matthew Hahn’s Lassie’s Mother, a personal and historical tale of Buck’s County PA told by a computer animated 3d avatar.