Review: The Found Footage Festival at Hyde Park Picturehouse

By September 2, 2014

Film, TV & Tech. Leeds.

[Image: Identifying Machine Made Marbles © Found Footage Festival]


We’ve talked before about the Found Footage Festival. In fact, we talked to Nick Prueher – one half of the duo himself – about their show at the Hyde Park Picture House in July of this year (read the interview HERE). TSOTA also went along to the show and saw a brand new collection of sometimes baffling, occasionally disturbing, and often hilarious VHS tapes large on the big screen.

As an event, the Found Footage Festival really defies both expectation and explanation. It’s not quite stand-up, and certainly not a cinematic experience. But you leave with a sense of slightly disgusted enthusiasm for the world, the people in it, and especially those from the mid-80s who like to wear neon colours and perform exercise routines with their baby and/or dog.

It is really somewhat impossible to describe how all two hours (give or take) of clips and comments feel in the presence of Nick and Joe (Pickett) but some keywords might help for a start. Stupid. Wondrous. Alien. Completely trousers down, hands up, chainsaws wide mad. If you’ve not been to the Found Footage Festival before you might be some of the way to understanding it.

Whilst the takeover of the world’s visual content by YouTube has made it easy beyond belief to jump from keyboard playing cat to badly dubbed NFL players, this still isn’t the whole story of our video-making history. The 80s brought a revolution in terms of ‘audio/visual’ technologies, and people could start making their own videos: their own adverts, their own movies, their own exercise videos, their own absolutely anything. And people did, in their hundreds of thousands. And there’s only one way to keep your long-toiled-over VHS project: to actually keep it. And if you didn’t, and over the next decade or three it fell from shelf to shop to skip, then you can be sure we know two men who will find it.

And when they do, and they offer them up to a paying audience, you can be as equally sure that the journey won’t end there. As well as showing us, and commentating on, the tapes in question we get a chance to find out where people are now. Reuniting a pair of (absolutely awful) shopping channel presenters presumably took an awful lot of work for Nick and Joe, and should we really care? Probably not. But the sheer delight in the audience at suddenly realising the two people on screen trying to sell them some tat suddenly aged 30 years, gained a few pounds and got just a little bitter about each other. Well, that’s worth the price of admission alone.

Speaking of which, a friend of ours wondered if it was a little cruel, laughing at these clips of people from 30-odd years ago, entirely unaware they would be judged and watched. And whilst it may seem mean spirited, the view you get from being in the audience is one of ‘this is a safe place.’ Everyone knows that people were experimenting, trying out the technology, and wondering what they could do next. It’s inevitable some people would get things wrong; and be that with script, camerawork, or carrying a dog in a papoose, it seems it would be stranger that these videos never got a second airing. And the response they illicit is an entirely natural expression of joy, without a hint of malice across the audience, Nick, or Joe.

The best way to describe the show is a quote from the men themselves a few years ago. In an interview Nick said “I remember seeing footage of a show that aired in England in the 90s called Topless Darts, and that made it to air! So imagine what videos must be… just waiting to be found.” That really sums up what you can expect from the Found Footage Festival. Weirdness; undercut with absolute childish glee. It’s impossible not to be swept up in your hosts’ excitement at their finds.

And as for laughing at other people? Well. It’s a damn sight better experience than You’ve Been Framed. And Jeremy Beadle certainly never got 80s shopping presenters back together. The Found Footage Festival won’t just help you learn how to have ‘cybersex on the internet,’ but it will probably reunite you with the expert, find the computer she used in the video, and have them recreate it for you. And isn’t that all we really want from life?

Paddy Garrigan


The Found Footage Festival is currently touring America, and will doubtless be back in the UK again soon.

Filed under: Film, TV & Tech