Occidental Film Festival showcases eclectic array of student projects

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Matt Parker (senior) won first prize at the Oxy Film Festival with "Hidden Meanings of Cinema", a satirical video essay examining Tobey Maguire's character in Spider-Man 3 (2007), at Choi Auditorium in Los Angeles on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018. Willie Siau/The Occidental

The Media Arts and Culture (MAC) department hosted the 14th Annual Oxy Film Festival (OFF) Thursday, Feb. 22 in Choi Auditorium, featuring a stylistically diverse lineup of fifteen short films created by Occidental students.

Every year, OFF receives submissions from students via email, after which Department Student Production Coordinator Rachel Goldfinger (senior) and a team of eight senior MAC majors curate the final lineup. The projects — some of which were created for MAC classes — ranged from intimate personal documentaries to experimental Microsoft-Paint-esque animated shorts, European-style art films (shot on real film) and even a satirical video essay.

“Some people did these films while abroad, some people just grabbed their friends; I know one project was with a production company somebody was working with, and they were an editor on the project,” Goldfinger said. “We just support whatever work students are doing.”

After the screening, the audience voted for their favorite project via a cell phone poll. The top three films received trophies. This was the first year the festival has used the cell phone polling system; the previous 13 festivals had a panel of faculty judges who determined the winners.

Students Rachel Goldfinger (senior), Dean Lin (junior), and Nina Borghi posing behind a makeshift photobooth at Choi Auditorium in Los Angeles on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018.

The first place winner of the audience-favorite award was “Hidden Meanings of Cinema” by Matt Parker (senior) — a parodic video essay in which Parker overanalyzes a notorious dance club scene from “Spiderman 3.” Second place went to “Beautiful Haiti” by Mimi Miyamoto* (first year), a documentary short about the people of Haiti while third place went to “Fishy” by Raphael Gonzalez (junior), a Czech-language narrative short shot on film.

Parker produced his audience-favorite mock video essay for MAC 390, the department’s junior seminar, with MAC professor Ari Laskin. His was one of two festival entries produced for this class; the other was “I Have a Time Machine” by Willie Siau* (senior).

“I actually really like video essays — I watch a lot of them,” Parker said. “Professor Laskin had showed us some that satirized how condescending and pretentious a lot of video essays are, and I had seen another video essay that looked at ‘Pitch Perfect’ as a 9/11 conspiracy theory, and I liked that idea. So I just picked a bad movie and went from there.”

Gonzalez’s “Fishy” was his final project for a semester abroad program he attended in Prague at The Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (FAMU) last semester. It is about a woman who kidnaps an old man for a “day of fun,” according to the festival program.

“I had another idea but they shut it down, then I got really sick, and while sitting in class I came up with that,” Gonzalez said. “Then they said they were going to do that; I thought it worked out quite well.”

Other than the MAC Senior Comprehensive Project Screening, the Oxy Film Festival is one of the only campus events during the year where MAC students can showcase their work.

“As a junior, it’s nice to have a place to show your stuff beyond just comps projects and have that exhibition,” Gonzalez said. “It’s very rewarding.”

Both Parker and Gonzalez noted that more students seemed to have participated in the festival this year than in years past. They found this encouraging, both for the Oxy Film Festival’s future and for the department’s.

“I hope it promotes more participation in the MAC department, and at least an understanding of what MAC students do,” Parker said.

*Mimi Miyamoto is a videographer and Willie Siau is a senior photo editor for The Occidental.