Film with a focus

Queen’s-based Focus Film Festival reaches new capacities this year

The Focus Film Festival provides a creative outlet for all students interested in film.
The Focus Film Festival provides a creative outlet for all students interested in film.
Photo supplied by Ian VanDuzer

A topic, a camera and 72 hours.

This is the premise behind the Focus Film Festival, a Queen’s-based event that was started 11 years ago. Since then, it has grown exponentially.

“This is actually the biggest festival that we’ve had,” said Eva Otlewski, one of the festival co-directors. “We have 14 groups compared to the three or five that started at the beginning.”

The groups, she said, are made up of five people tasked with making a five-minute film. Participants were assigned their groups and given their topics last Thursday night and had until Sunday at midnight to submit their films.

Each festival has a general theme, which is kept secret until filming begins.

“This year’s theme is the human condition,” says Otlewski. “[Since] there’s fourteen groups, and ... seven vices and seven virtues, we have the seven virtues like kindness, charity ... and we have the vices, such as sloth, gluttony, and wrath.”

Once the films are finished, they are submitted to a panel of four judges. Awards are then given to standout films at the premiere event later this month.

“All the filmmakers have a chance to meet all judges and talk with them and get business cards,” Otlewski said. “It’s a really good networking event.”

It’s an exciting evening for filmmakers and movie-goers alike.

“It’s [also] a really good opportunity for people to ... be with an audience that hasn’t seen the film before and get a genuine reaction to that,” Otlewski said. “It’s kind of an unpredictable situation … the whole evening is just on another level of exciting.”

Though only Queen’s students are allowed to participate, the festival is open to all disciplines.

“This year we have [students enrolled in] computer science, biology, engineering [and] drama,” she said. “The majority are film students, but we really encourage an inter-faculty experience.”

Students without prior film experience are also encouraged to participate. All that’s required is an interest in movies and film. It’s a learning experience, Otlewski said.

“We will put you in a group with people who are experienced so you can learn from them. They can take you under their wing and you can just be on the set,” she said.

The festival, Otlewski said, provides a great opportunity to show off the results of this student collaboration.

“[It demonstrates] what university students, or even just young adults, are capable of with a minimal budget, with just a group of five people,” she said.

This year’s group of films will premiere on Jan. 23 at 7 p.m. in Grant Hall. Admission is free.

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