IDFA Review: Set!

a prize-winning table

There’s nothing that gets the blood flowing quite like competitive sports, and it’s often the competition that is more important than the sport itself. As a species, there’s something in our nature which thrives off a challenge. Going head-to-head with someone else and coming out victorious. Winning is a great feeling. However, when this mindset ekes out into other areas of life, it can end up being problematic. Or just covering up something more serious.

In America, they tend to take this kind of thing to the next level, making even the most everyday activity into a competition. One of the stranger things you’re likely to come across is the world of competitive table setting. Every year, during the Orange County Fair in California, a fierce ‘table-scaping’ ‘tournament’ takes place. One where the stakes are low but the prizes are lower. In Set!, Scott Gawlik grabs his camera and follows some of the favourites as they prepare for this year’s event.

Set! does exactly what you’d expect. It shines a light on an odd bunch of misfits who dedicate their lives to this unusual ‘sport’. As they count down to the big day, we enter into their worlds. Seeing what drives their strange obsessions and gaining an insight into what might really lie behind their dreams. Set! takes a fairly standard formula and has a lot of fun with it. Creating a documentary which is both entertaining and revealing.

Set! Screens at International Documentary Filmfestival Amsterdam.

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