Feature Stories

Barbie goes to Film School

Professor Tom Denove enlists Mattel's Barbie Video Girl to create a festival of all Barbie-cam films

As the multimedia triumph that was the 1st Annual Barbie Film Festival was winding down, as the last pink-frosted cupcake crumbs were being brushed from various lapels in the lobby of the Bridges Theater, one question reverberated through the minds of the stunned participants: What hath Tom Denove wrought?

Indeed, as Professor and FTVDM Vice Chair Denove explained to the assembled multitudes, it was all his idea, inspired by a now-famous YouTube video some helpful students brought to his attention

Denove won the approval of TFT Dean Teri Schwartz for his wacky idea, and then approached Barbie’s parent company, Mattel, to pitch his concept for a film festival exclusively for short films made by TFT students using the new Barbie Video Girl Doll — an iconic, slender young lady made of plastic with the lens of a palm-sized video camera embedded in her chest.

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That many of the films, shot over a single week in April, were clever, funny and inventive was no surprise. They were made, after all, by some of the most talented film students in the continental U.S.

Another slender young woman, Rose O’Neil, Mattel’s Director of Barbie Marketing, was on hand to award MFA Production/Directing student Tess Sweet the good-humored Mattel Jury Prize for one of the evening’s cleverest clips, “Little Punk.” The short was distinguished, O’Neil said, by its vivid evocation of “Barbie’s point of view,” and because it paid tribute to an act that almost all little girls are eventually moved to perform: “cutting off all of Barbie’s hair.”

The high humor quotient came from Soraya Selene's restaging of a key scene from “Basic Instinct” in “The Ken Show” (Best Cinematography) and Best Film winner Simon Savelyev‘s wistful evocation of an oppressed house appliance’s break for freedom in “I, Roomba.”

What did take some viewers by surprise was the high percentage of work that was artful and ingenious, and even beautiful. Undergraduate film major Travis Geiger deservedly won the Production Value Award for Overall Design and Ingenuity for a film, “La Muse,” that paid atmospheric homage to the black-and-white French New Wave films of the 1960s — Barbie and Ken as Anna and Jean-Paul, complete with subtitled French dialogue.


Barbie Film Festival Awards 2011

MATTEL JURY PRIZE – ‘Little Punk’ by MFA Director Tess Sweet

BEST FILM – ‘I, Roomba’ by MFA Director Simon Savelyev

AWARD FOR TECHNICAL ACHIEVEMENT – ‘Battle of the Bog’ by MFA Animator Eric Leppo & Undergraduate Design student, Dawson Dill.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY – MFA Director-Cinematographer Soraya Selene for ‘The Ken Show’

BEST ANIMATION – ‘The Twilight Zone: Barbie Edition’ directed by TFT Staff Member Nolwen Cifuentes.

BEST DOCUMENTARY – ‘Thanks, Barbie’ directed by Undergraduate Susanna Ericsson.

BEST COMEDY – ‘Audition For Barbie’ directed by MFA Director-Cinematographer Judy Phu.

THE PRODUCTION VALUE AWARD FOR OVERALL DESIGN AND INGENUITY – ‘Le Muse’ by Undergraduate Travis Geiger

THE PRODUCTION VALUE AWARD FOR MOST FASHIONABLE / STYLISH / DISTINGUISHED / BEST DRESSED – ‘Ken Gets A Makeover’ by MFA Screenwriter Sian Chen

THE BARBIE BRUIN SPIRIT AWARD – tied – ‘A Barbie For All of Us’ by Undergraduate Scottie Bookman

—‘Making An Animated Film’ by MFA Animator Natalie Xavier

THE BRANDON BLOCH SPIRIT AWARD FOR ACHIEVEMENT IN BARBOGRAPHY – ‘Bug Eye’ by MFA Animator Marika Boehler

AUDIENCE AWARD – ‘Bug Eye’