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21st Annual Notre Dame Film Festival

Shane Steinberg | Friday, January 22, 2010

Starting with last night’s premiere and running through Saturday, the Browning Cinema at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center will play host to one of the great gems of an event on Notre Dame’s campus, the 21st Annual Notre Dame Film Festival.
Featuring a series of student-produced short films made as class projects during the past year, the festival has served for 20 years as a celebration of the work of aspiring filmmakers as well as a chance for those student filmmakers to gain a wider audience for films that would have otherwise stayed in the classroom. Spanning everything from dark comedies, to tension-ridden suspense thrillers, to a documentary about a filmmaker and covering locations ranging from our very own South Bend to Northern California to Florida, the festival combines an entertaining and intriguing mix of genres and locations that add to the fresh, original feel of the experience.
The festival screens each night at 6:30 and 9:30 p.m. and features 15 films, with a few variations in the two screenings due to time constraints. In addition, there are six films not being shown during the festival that can be viewed online at ftt.nd.edu
This year’s festival combines an abundance of documentaries made with a keen eye for the genre, and — in certain cases like that of the film “Artzainak: Shepards and Sheep” — made with grace and packed with shots that sit like still images against a clear sky.
In addition, there are three films embracing the tough-to-master but classic-feeling medium of black-and-white filmmaking. Then throw into the mix a few incredibly original scripts in “(Non)fiction” and “Subtext,” both memorable in their own right.
But it’s the documentaries that unlike last year steal the show here both in presence and in brilliance, thus anchoring this year’s selection of films.
There’s an indelible charm at the heart of the festival. There’s a truly absorbing effect to stepping into a theater and seeing a set of films for which there exist no critical reviews, no word of mouth to go on, no spruced up trailers, and, ultimately, no expectations one way or the other. With each film comes a new surprise, a surprise that very often is quite refreshing, because there’s nothing like finding that hidden, unknown gem when you least expect it.
And that is what the festival is at its inner core: a canvas on which a series of unknowns filmed with starry-eyed passion are projected, that more often than not turn out to be delightfully surprising, immersive and entertaining and leave an impression even after the festival’s end.
Although film lovers should consider this a must-see, it doesn’t take a passion for film to appreciate what the Notre Dame Film Festival has to offer. There’s nothing like watching a film that your friend had a hand in making or one about a subject related to our school that you know all too well. And furthermore, in the big-budget world that we so often equate the film industry with, it’s a breath of fresh air to be able to walk into a movie theater and watch a series of films made by aspiring filmmakers who share a passion for the medium and who create art for the sake of art. That, if nothing else, is why the Film Festival is such a rewarding experience, and why if only once in your four years here, everyone should attend the festival.
Tickets are $3 for Notre Dame students, $5 for faculty and $6 for the general public, with the option of buying advance tickets online at performingarts.nd.edu or by calling the Performing Arts Center box office at 574-631-2800. From personal experience, it’s best to order your tickets in advance because the festival has been known to sell out.

Contact Shane Steinberg at ssteinb2@nd.edu