New Talent Emerges at Student Film Festival

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Author: Claire Diggins

Student filmmakers shared their latest projects on Monday, March 21, at the eighth annual Student Film Festival. Films were screened to a lively audience in Johnson 200 and included seven short films and two documentaries from nine students. The festival entailed two screenings of the films, one at 7 p.m. and one at 10 p.m., free Swork coffee and an abundance of sweet treats to keep everyone wired.

After the final screening, the three faculty judges, Film and Media Studies (FMS) professors Brody Fox and Paul Reinsch, along with cage manager Diana Keeler, announced the three winners of the festival. Family, friends and students populated Johnson 200 in support of Occidental’s talented directors and cinematographers. The festival permitted any student to submit, and this year’s submissions came from a diverse group of students across multiple departments. The festival received 14 submissions and ultimately screened only nine.

The documentary “Unconditional Love,” edited by Veronica Pinkham (junior) in collaboration with a non-Occidental director, won first place at the festival. “Unconditional Love” explored the innovative art studio of Choppa White in Elder Place, Brighton, United Kingdom. Choppa’s studio, Elementree Studios, is a place where discarded items find new life. Operating under the philosophy of unconditional love, Choppa breathes new life into the discarded objects found in dumpsters or gutters, making them something new and beautiful. The studio is really a place for the community to find new life, and Choppa’s goal is to invigorate his blighted neighborhood through the art of recycling. The piece is compelling, beautifully shot, subtle and yet still poignant in its message. Pinkham found a fascinating man to document and did a lovely job capturing his esprit de vie. The film won Pinkham first place, movie tickets to Laemmle’s Theater and a gift card for the Oinkster.

Coming in second place was the film “Motherworld” by Alex Zeldin (junior). In this comedic short, the protagonist, Art, is an adolescent boy fed up with his overbearing mother. Art finds himself incapable of escaping her motherly advice throughout his day, getting nagged and reprimanded by everyone he meets, from a police officer to his local barista. By the end of the day, after being surrounded by people just like his mother, he finds her slightly less exhausting.

Rounding out the awards in third place was “Double Truth” by Raffy Cortina (sohpomore) and Daniel Watson (sophomore). This dramatic short film, shot over winter break, followed a day in the life of two New York hoodlums who, in the midst of robbing a home, find themselves committing a much more serious crime. The film follows the characters as they deal with the ramifications of the day’s activity and their own childhood demons.

The 7 p.m. screening began with a warm introduction from Critical Theories in Film Studies professor Katie Mills, who complimented the participating students on their film projects. Following Mills’ introduction was a “commercial” for key upcoming events for FMS seniors. On April 7, there will be the Weingart Gallery opening of an installation by Sonia Lessuck (senior) that supplements a screenplay she wrote for her comps. Her gallery talk begins at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, April 9, is the Senior Comps Film Festival, an annual event which allows senior FMS majors to screen their final projects (if they are films) to an audience in Thorne Hall.

“This event always totally fills Thorne Hall and has the energetic atmosphere of Dance Production,” said Mills. Lastly, on Tuesday, April 12, the FMS seniors who passed their Critical Studies comps will present short summaries of their research with film clips. These diverse film events will lead into the Occidental Spring Arts Festival, which will showcase student and professional films, theater, dance and musical performances.

FMS major and student production manager Anne Kelly (senior), who organized the festival along with Gabe Feinberg (senior), Jack Greenbaum (senior) and several student volunteers, said the 10 p.m. screening had a much larger audience than the 7 p.m. show. “One of the only problems we had was trying to get as many people to the 7 p.m. screening as possible. Although [the 7 p.m. showing was sparsely attended], it was packed at 10 p.m., filled wall-to-wall with people. It turned into a little party in there!” Kelly said.

Kelly began organizing the festival in January, finding an appropriate date, space and sponsors for the refreshments and prizes. She organized the event with seven student volunteers and the three faculty members who served as the judges.

Kelly said she really enjoyed seeing student work completed outside the parameters of film courses. “I think the event went really well, we had a really fun time outside of class. Most of the submissions were done outside of class, so it was fun and interesting to see how the department is growing in that way, or at least how students’ interests in film is growing,” Kelly said.

Other films screened at the festival included Carly Ann Wright’s (sophomore) “Southern Comfort,” about a party seeped with debauchery among friends, and “Movie Buzzed” by Zack Windheim (junior), about a young movie-goer who falls for a silver screen siren and “Gamelon” by Robin Feldman (senior). “The Good, The Bad & The Ugly of Ara Keuroghlian” a documentary by Anahid Yahjian (senior), also screened at the festival. Along with them was Audrey Lamsam’s “Bridging Families” and “Sound Off” by junior Meagan Boaglio (junior).

The festival will occur again next year and is an annual production put on by the film department to give students the opportunity to show their films on the big screen with an audience.

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