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Emerson College Hosts First Annual Emerson Independent Film Festival

Terri Bulan ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff 

Official poster for the Emerson Independent Film Festival.

It came as quite a shock to this freshman that there is a great lack of student-run film festivals at Emerson College. As a student who chose to come to Emerson College because of its renowned visual and media arts program, I was slightly disappointed that there are no other film festivals other than the Emerson Independent Film Festival which was held on November 12, 2012. One of the festival’s founders, Katie Marchese, said that she, too, was surprised there were no festivals at the College. That is why she, alongside Hogan Siedel, founded the only annual film festival at Emerson College.

                Marchese said that it was not difficult to get the idea up and running with such supportive and gung-ho staff members at Emerson College. Also stating that the hardest part was not finding staff members to advise or to locate submissions, but e-mailing. At a university with such creative and ambitious student, it is no surprise that there was no difficulty in finding submissions. A whopping sixty-seven films were submitted to the EIFF and only seven were showcased this past Monday in the Bill Bordy Theatre. The submissions were all short films because, sadly, the feature category had to be cut.

Even though all the films were not very long, there was a great deal of diversity on the screen. There were a few experimental shorts such as Noah Aust’s Winter in Cleveland and Alexander Freeman’s Faceless Beauty. Heather Hoglund, a film major focusing on documentary filmmaking, submitted 6 A.M. Serenity about an organization that helps out the homeless as well as people recovering from drug and alcohol addiction. Peter Rosati, Zack Frank, and Samira Norouznasseri all submitted short subject narratives and Arki Tadesse showed his film Time Lapse Boston and New York a short or documentary art film.

All seven films were impressive, regardless of genre. The curators, two local film-lovers who also have worked at other film festivals, had nothing but good things to say about the films. Criticism was minimal, if any negative things were said at all.

A great deal of praise was given to Samira Norouznasseri for her short narrative film The Bright Frames. Aside from her originality, Norouznasseri was complemented on her stunning visuals. He film has a feeling of lightens and fragility which if the perfect mood to go along with her story of a teen girl living in a household occupied by older female family members. Her keen visual eye was expressed perfectly in her film. It is exciting to see where she will go in her career if she continues to use her gifts as a filmmaker.

Another highly promising filmmaker who had a film showed on Monday was Heather Hoglund. Her documentary focused on the non-profit organization called Back On My Feet that aids the homeless and those recovering from addiction. When asked about whether or not her experience changed her perception on the homeless, she responded, “Yes… I never had a real negative attitude towards homeless people, but making this film showed me that there are impoverished people out there really trying to get themselves back on their feet.” Her documentary gave the audience a new perspective of those trying to get back into the swing of things. She did her job as a nonfiction filmmaker by enlightening the audience and entertaining them.

What gives her such an edge that all of the filmmakers with submissions being showcased have is her eye for a good story. Hoglund found an interesting topic and shed light on it. That is a key to great filmmaking. Hoglund and all of her peers all have the gift to distinguish what makes a good film and what makes a subpar film. It is very simple, but it highly important in the field they plan to work in.

Even though the winner of the festival was not announced when Bill Bordy Theatre had to be cleared, it was easy to see that all of the films’ creators have immense talent. There was no need to have a winner, anyway, because all of the submitters achieved a goal that is hard to attain. They all made great, entertaining films that are a statement to how great Emerson is of a film school. They will go on to make their alma mater proud.

Sadly, there is a dilemma that the Emerson Independent Film Festival is facing. Katie Marchese is a senior and will be graduating this upcoming May, which will leave Hogan Siedel all alone to plan the festival himself. The duo is currently looking for Marchese’s replacement.

REVIEWS OF ALL FILM SUBMISSIONS

Terri Bulan ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff

Bad Kids by Peter Rosati

One thing that immediately sticks out at the beginning of Peter Rosati’s submission to the Emerson Independent Film Festival was his cast of colorful characters, especially the young boys. Who Rosati revealed were not actually actors, but were kids Rosati knew from his neighborhood in his hometown of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. One could easily be fooled that all of the boys were experienced actors, which is a testament to how well directed the film is.

                Rosati and his creative partner for the film did an excellent job at achieving their goal to make a great film. The film, though it contained lots of improvised scenes, did an excellent job of accurately depicting young teenaged boys and how they interact with each other. The dialogue was spot on and the story was believable yet still original. Bad Kids is reminiscent of Lord of the Flies and the ‘80s film Stand By Me that Rosati admitted did play a role in the creation of his film. Even though he took inspiration from previously published works, Rosati’s film shows great potential.

6 A.M. Serenity by Heather Hoglund

                6 A.M. Serenity does what all good documentaries do: they show you real events of something you have not seen before. Heather Hoglund’s short documentary introduces the audience to Back On My Feet, an organization that seeks to help the homeless and those recovering from drug and alcohol addiction. Back On My Feet aims to help those trying to get back on their feet by first introducing them to running as a group. The documentary goes further by talking to some of the leaders of the nonprofit organization in Boston as well as participants in the program.

The documentary is uplifting and informative, though it is a shame Hoglund was not able to make a full-length doc. With more time she could have gotten into more detail about Back On My Feet and built up character profiles. With more footage Hoglund could make her already powerful documentary even greater. She has a interesting topic that will, without a doubt, grab the attention of countless people around the country. Her decision to make a film about Back On My Feet shows that she has a great eye for documentary filmmaking. Hoglund, like the others at the festival, has a bright future ahead of her.

Winter in Cleveland by Noah Aust

One thing that the whole audience was thinking about during Noah Aust’s experimental film Winter in Cleveland was, “Wow.” Aust’s strange film was intriguing, artful, and surreal. He pulls off something that is difficult to do: he made a good experimental film. Most experimental and art films are simply ignored because they lack the typical narrative quality most films have. Aust’s film may be experimental, but it is no less than narrative films. He mixes a very interesting and creepy monologue with imagery of a young man brushing his teeth relentlessly. The use of black and white with odd imagery and eerie dialogue made the film resemble David Lynch’s film Eraserhead. Aust should take it as a compliment that his little film garnered such attention at the Emerson Independent Film Festival and was numerous times compared to the work of Lynch. Though it is definitely weird, it is a stand-put film.

Faceless Beauty by Alexander Freeman

                The poem that is heard as a voice over in Faceless Beauty, one of the seven film showed at the Emerson Independent Film Festival, is powerful and moving. It flows wonderfully and resonates with the audience. The visuals that go along with the narration, however, do not carry their weight. With such a strong monologue, the audience would expect great cinematic images that match the level of intensity that the audio first introduces to them. The visuals of Freeman’s experimental film are lack luster; they do not hold up. In a film such as this, the audio and imagery both have to be well done, if not the film’s message is not conveyed and the film is easily forgotten.

                Though this film nabbed a spot in the selective film festival, it is another example of how so many experimental films are ignored. The writing is spectacular, but the film as a whole is not as impressive as it could be.

Time Lapse Boston and New York by Arki Tadesse

                When Arki Tadesse went out to make a film about Occupy Boston, he never thought he would take the footage he captured and make a film that looks like it is stuck fast-forwarding. The footage Tadesse captured on camera are sped up in the tradition of time lapse. The film is a bit over five minutes in length, but it seems to go by fast. This is not because it is sped up, but because the audience wants it to last longer.

                Tadesse’s footage of the man-made and natural beauties of Boston and New York are exquisite. His cinematography is great and so is the speed he chose to pace his film at. He selected the right speed so that the images move fast enough, but not too fast as to make the audience dizzy. The time-lapse works throughout the whole film, not just when focused on particular landscapes. The images of the Charles River are just as beautiful and alluring as the blurs of taillights in New York City.

                The film also carries an underlying message as the people of urban areas race through local parks. Like in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Time Lapse reminds us that life moves quickly & if we do not stop to look around and acknowledge it, we will miss it. Tadesse’s film does a good job at entertaining the audience, but also showing them the beauty of the cities featured. It subtly reminds the audience to slow down and take in the sights.

The Bright Frames by Samira Norouznasseri

                This visually arresting short about a young Muslim girl could very easily have been about the society in which women in the Islamic community are raised. It could have been like so many other films that show the negatives sides of being a female Muslim, but it does not. The Bright Frames’ director is to thank for that. She took a group of people that in Western cinema we see oppressed and make them simply human characters in her film.

                Norouznasseri, who studied film in Iran before attending Emerson College, wanted the film to be about how the four women interact in their household. The teenaged girl is the focus of this film even though she is not in it for a long time. Norouznasseri wanted the viewers to pay attention to the mood change in her main character and notice how the women that she lives with are so wrapped up in their own selves they do not notice that she is upset. It is subject matter that is not readily explored in films that have not been made by John Hughes. The fact that Norouznasseri focused on a teenager, one that practices Islam at that, shows that she has a good narrative eye.

                She also has a great visual eye that should be the envy of hundreds of filmmakers. The Bright Frames is similar to that of a Sofia Coppola film with bright, light colors. There is a gossamer feel to this short, beautifully fitting to her story of a young girl. It meshes perfectly with the fragility of a young girl. Most films dealing with teenage girls are dark, so it is a nice and welcomed surprise that the film is very bright and uses light tans an whites in its color scheme of the setting. The film was short, but the stimulating visuals and original focus makes the audience wanting more.

Bardo by Zack Frank

                This is film is very interesting. It has a unique plot, but it also has an unusual element to it. Bardo, directed by Zack Frank, is both a narrative and experimental film. It is not straight up narrative or a typical experimental film, but a mixture of the two that works well. The short film centers on Robert Bardo, a composer who seeks silence and solace in a cabin in the woods while he tries to write a new piece of music. However, this film is not just film about a musician trying to crank out one last piece of music.

                This film has a deeper spiritual significance. Frank and his team came up with the idea for the story when he was exposed to Buddhism. While studying the religion, Frank and his colleagues found the Tibetan word “bardo” which translates to “intermediate state.” The tale of Robert struggling with a ringing in his ears is a metaphor for the in-between phase the word “bardo” describes. It is a very interesting metaphor, but the less-than great directing hinders the message the filmmaker is trying to get across. Though there is room for improvement, it is definitely entertaining and intriguing. 

1 Comment on Emerson College Hosts First Annual Emerson Independent Film Festival

  1. This is a cool article but it has some odd parts. What did you think was less than great about the directing of Bardo? And what do you mean when you say that Winter in Cleveland is “no less than narrative films”? Also, what’s a stand-put film?

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