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in Filmmaking
on Nov 6, 2009

2ND UPDATE: We have our winners. Thanks, all!

UPDATE: To win a digital copy of Objectified, answer the question below and email editor.filmmakermagazine AT gmail.com.

Almost three years ago I decided to check out what seemed to be an obscure little documentary about graphic design at SXSW and was surprised to find the line to get in stretching all the way down the length of the convention hall. As the editor of a magazine, the subject matter of Gary Hustwit’s Helvetica — an examination of the historical, communicative and ideological meanings of that ubiquitous typeface — interested me. I hadn’t realized that SXSW, which is full of filmmakers, musicians and web designers who all have Adobe InDesign loaded on their laptops, contained a huge ready-made audience for Hustwit’s smart and engaging take on contemporary graphic design.

This past year at SXSW, Hustwit returned with what he revealed during the pre-screening intro as the second in a series of design-themed movies, Objectified. The new film looks at the world of industrial design, which translates into the people who make the things that are the props of our lives. As the film points out, everything from a potato peeler to a chair to a faucet to a sports car to an iPod is designed, and that fusion of aesthetics and functionality contains an assumption about not only our relationship to the objects that surround us but our concepts of our own identities as well. In Objectified, Hustwit talks with a number of people who make stuff but, as with Helvetica, his aim is not to create a dry history of industrial design. Instead, Hustwit takes us on a rhetorical journey that ends with a series of discussions questioning the logic of object production in an environmentally-taxed, wasteful, and over-marketed consumer society. What makes Objectified work, and what elevates it over the quite-good Helvetica, is the progression of its discourse. Yes, the objects in this film, perfectly lit and shot against stark white backgrounds, are dutifully fetishized — Apple ads come to life — but the documentary makes its greatest impact as it moves from issues surrounding object production to questions of why objects should be made at all. As 3D printers prepare to do to the object-making industries what filesharing has done to the content businesses, Objectified is an affectionate dissection of our urge to love ourselves through what we can hold, handle, use, and buy.

Objectified is now available in a variety of formats, including Blu-Ray, a limited edition DVD, and a limited edition USB. (Check the website for more details.) It’s also available in non-physical form on iTunes, and the good folks at New Video have provided Filmmaker with three digital copies for our readers. Here are the details. You have to be a U.S. resident. And, you have to have an iTunes account or, if you win, set one up. Oh yeah — to make this just a tiny, tiny bit less easy, you have to answer a question: what object inspires Steven Heller, co-chair of the Design Program at the School of Visual Arts and author of the “Visuals” column of the New York Times Book Review? (Hint: you might check out Hustwit’s “Objectify Me” blog…) The first three people who email me at editor.filmmakermagazine AT gmail.com will receive a free iTunes download of Objectified.

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