Student-run film fest blossoms

F is for Cookie was one of the comedies made for the festival.
F is for Cookie was one of the comedies made for the festival.
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Photo courtesy of youtube.com

Film Festival Recap: Fourth Annual Focus Film Festival @ BioSci Auditorium, Jan. 21

What do fortune cookies, yellow shoes and female bowel movements have in common? Though seemingly dissimilar, all were featured in this year’s fourth annual Focus Film Festival. The theatre was nearly packed on Saturday night, even though the screening had been moved to the BioSciences Complex from its previous location, Etherington Auditorium, in order to provide more seating.

Participants in the festival were given three days to write, shoot, and edit a five-minute short film based on themes determined by festival directors Matt Taylor and Kapil Khimdas. The initial themes they began with were “destiny, choice and circumstance.” Taylor and Khimdas then chose quotations from the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” and Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler” that best embodied these themes.

“It was really important that the theme be something abstract, something that the students could read and use to inform their thinking and creative processes and take it and just run with it,” Khimdas said.

What makes the Focus Film Festival unique is the fact that, for the most part, the group of students assigned to make movies together students don’t know each other before the contest begins. In selecting the groups, the festival directors tried to ensure that there was a balance in terms of the participants’ experience levels. This year, there were more non-film students participating than in previous years.

With such a short amount of time, groups worked sleep-deprived, non-stop, late into the night to finish. One group even went to such lengths as paying Campus Security to supervise their filming.

Due to the spike in the number of participants—100, to be exact—the 20 groups were further divided into two larger groups. One group was given the theme “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need,” a line from the song by the Rolling Stones. The interpretations ranged from a tale of love and fate, circulating around the serendipitous travels of a five-dollar bill in For What It’s Worth, to a hybrid of Thomas Crown-meets-Charlie Chaplin in The Paint Job.

The second group rolled tape to the theme of “The Gambler”: “You got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away and know when to run ...” By presenting Jason Pickar injecting, snorting and drinking fortune cookie after fortune cookie, F is for Cookie presented a convincing argument as to why people should heed the little morsels of wisdom hidden in these cookies. Failing to succeed at failing took a humorous look at the idea of the “struggling artist.” The judging panel included the directors and film professors Clarke Mackey and John Ramlochand. Achievement in direction was awarded to Flush! an impressive musical bathroom number about one man’s pungent discovery that “Girls poo too.”

Was Spielen Wir was recognized for achievement in editing, while Happenstance was recognized for its cinematography. He Came, He Saw, He Herd ... ed, the story about one man realizing his destiny was to be shepherd, took home the award for best story.

The coveted best picture nod was given to Öde/Önska, a film that explored different emotions involved in a sexual encounter.

One member of the Öde/Önska group, Jess Lindal, is slated to be next year’s festival director.

“I see it growing which could be a bit of a conflict because I don’t know how we’ll fit more people in this room or more films on the screen,” Lindal said.

The Focus Film Festival is a great opportunity for anyone interested in film to get first-hand experience in filmmaking.

“The festival isn’t just about students showing their films to other students,” Taylor said. “It’s also about allowing students to make films ... they can potentially show at other festivals.”

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