Student filmmakers share their work in 16th annual Oxy Film Festival

Members of the audience await the start of the Oxy Film Festival hosted by the Media Arts & Culture department (MAC) in Choi Auditorium at Occidental College. Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. Nanuka Jorjadze/The Occidental

The 16th annual Oxy Film Festival took place Tuesday, Feb. 26 and showcased a variety of films, spanning from a digital film that sampled clips of “The Sims” to a documentary about Syrian refugees in Miami. After cookies and drinks at the pre-reception in the McKinnon Global Forum Atrium, festival leaders guided the crowd to Choi Auditorium to watch the films. The Media Arts & Culture department (MAC) hosted the event and showcased nine films. A panel of judges comprised of MAC professors Ari Laskin and Diana Keeler, Occidental alumna Lauren Mahoney ’13 and student Ella Ainsworth (senior) picked the festival winner. The audience picked a People’s Choice category winner using a ballot system.

Ari Laskin presents an award during the Oxy Film Fest in Choi Auditorium at Occidental College. Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019 Nanuka Jorjadze/The Occidental

Filmmaker Raphael Gonzalez (senior) entered a project from his film class. Gonzalez, who won first place for his film “Jack and Joanne,” said he had not planned on entering any of his work into the competition but did so after his professor urged him to. “Jack and Joanne” follows the story, as told by Gonzalez’ grandparents, of how the couple first met. The film overlays the recording of their narration over clips of two young actors playing Jack and Joanne meeting for the first time, then showcases pictures of their life together and finally shows footage of the couple today.

“The film is kind of a documentary fiction piece about how my grandparents met 50 years ago; it’s inspired by how they’re both getting older,” Gonzalez said. “It’s sort of about how their memories of the event are different, inspired by the subjectivity of memory changes when you get older.”

The People’s Choice winner was “A Documentary About Love” by Mimi Miyamoto (sophomore). Miyamoto said her movie was the result of a prompt in her film class where students had 70 minutes to go film anything they wanted. She was inspired by YouTube videos and ran around campus asking people on the quad who they loved the most. Afterward, she said she asked the students to call their loved ones and tell them how much they loved them. During some portions of the film, a couple of people in the back rows started crying.

“Love comes in all different forms. It doesn’t matter who you love — it’s important to let people know how much they mean to you because there could come a day when you don’t have them in your life anymore, and they should know that they mean a lot to you,” Miyamoto said. “I was hoping that it would inspire the audience watching it to call the person that they love and tell them how much they appreciate them.”

Jacob Adler (sophomore) said he wanted to highlight the white savior complex of traditional Hollywood cinema with his movie “Deathbed.” Alongside Chelsea Brooks (sophomore), Adler created a collage of movies spanning several decades with scenes of a person of color in a secondary character role dying to save a white protagonist.

Jacob Adler (sophomore) discusses his film submission for the Oxy Film Festival at Occidental College. Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019. Nanuka Jorjadze/The Occidental

Tatiana Garnett (junior) said the intention of her film, “Black N Blue,” was to explore how colors around blackness change people’s perception of blackness itself. “Black N Blue” is just one part of her five-part series contrasting black people with different colors using an assortment of clips from popular media. Currently, Garnett is working on the color black. Garnett said it was important for her to highlight black people in her work because she does not feel her race is represented enough.

“Because I am a black woman, putting black people at [the film’s] center and at its core was important to me, especially because I feel like film and visual arts in general often don’t center black films and black narratives,” Garnett said.

Emma Connelly (junior) said her film, “Someday I Will Be Filled With Joy,” was about how isolated she felt during her semester abroad in Amsterdam. The movie featured repeated phrases from Connelly’s diary entries spoken by a robotic voice over video clips of a “Sims” character in various stages of life with frequent visual distortions.

“I felt really lost when I was abroad,” Connelly said. “It was the most intense version of feeling lost and without direction since I was in middle school or high school, and I wanted to make a visual representation of the running loop of commentary that I was feeling.”

Manny Rothman* (first year) co-created the film “This Fleeing Star” over winter break with his friend from home, Elijah Comas. The film follows Comas and his relationship with his sister during Comas’ time at home. Rothman said their intention for the film was to be an abstracted expression of two stars exploding and one star leaving the orbit of the other. According to Rothman, he was impressed with the number of experimental films at the festival.

“I guess I was really impressed with a handful of the films. I was surprised to see so many experimental and avant-garde films which I was not expecting,” Rothman said. “That was a really pleasant surprise for me.”

Many of the filmmakers said the film festival was important in highlighting student artists. Gonzalez said he wishes more people knew about the film festival because it would provide an audience for students who are trying to get recognition and support for the effort they put into their films. Connelly said the film festival provided her with a chance to share her work and she appreciated having a platform for student artists to show their art.

“I don’t feel like there’s enough opportunities for student artists on campus to show their work in a way that is department-sponsored and organized outside of a campus setting,” Connelly said. “It’s nice to have the department put time and effort into something and value student work.”