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Film Festival Kicks Off

Cassie Belek | Thursday, January 24, 2008

Notre Dame students who labored in film production classes for an entire semester will be able to see their finished products in front of audiences of hundreds starting tonight. For some of these aspiring filmmakers, they may reach their largest audience ever this weekend, but for others, the 19th annual film festival may be just a starting point in their illustrious filmmaking careers.

The film festival’s roots can be traced back to the 1980s when film production students would screen their films for their parents on graduation weekend. With the help of Notre Dame professor Ted Mandell, that screening led to the creation of an official film festival with contributions from students of all years. The first film festival took place in the basement of McKenna Hall. Students compiled the films to be shown, and Mandell said one of the first problems the festival encountered was a long running time.

The students “threw everything in there,” he said.

Today’s film festival is limited to 120 minutes, and with the construction of the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, it has found a permanent home in the Browning Cinema. That location makes the film festival “more accessible to a larger audience,” Mandell said. Additionally, it’s an opportunity for the filmmakers to see their own work in a real movie theater in front of an audience.

In this year’s film festival, four films came from the introductory film production course, six came from the intermediate course and five came from the advanced digital course. Mandell said the content of the films is up to the students, but the professors are there to guide them through to their final product.

“We know everything in the film and how it got from point A to point Z,” he said.

The films range from the humorous to the dramatic, and some have sparked controversy throughout the years. Mandell remembers one such controversial film, entitled “The Woman’s Guide to the Penis,” which featured a significant amount of male nudity. The film was smartly made, he said, but not everyone in the audience warmed to the content.

The film festival usually features a few Notre Dame-themed films that reflect on various aspects of life at Notre Dame.

“If it’s a good film and it has an ND flavor, it makes it fun for the students,” Mandell said.

This year’s Notre Dame-related films focus on the “Ring by Spring” tradition, an obsessed fan’s date with Tom Zbikowski and overpricing at the bookstore.

Mandell begins the festival screening each year with a funny film that has in the past featured campus celebrities such as Mike Brey, Tyrone Willingham and Brady Quinn. He’s keeping this year’s intro a surprise, but says that it will be a good one.

Several of this year’s filmmakers graduated last May and have moved on to start careers in the film and television industry.

“This is how you get your foot in the door. You make a film, you create a reel,” Mandell said.

Tickets are still available for all screenings and may be purchased online at performingarts.nd.edu or by calling 574-631-2800.

Contact Cassie Belek at cbelek@nd.edu