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Student Film Festival returns for 18th year

Analise Lipari and Erin McGinn | Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Annually, the Notre Dame Student Film Festival allows student filmmakers a chance to exhibit their dramatic, humorous and occasionally off-kilter work to the University and general public. This is the 18th year for the festival, which has come a long way since its original inception in the basement of what is now McKenna Hall.

“I think there were about seventy-five people who showed up,” said Film, Television and Theater professor Ted Mandell. “The students put the show together and just about any film that they could get their hands on was in the show.”

Over the years the film festival grew bigger and kept moving to larger locations, reaching its final home in the Browning Cinema in 2004.

All of the films shown at the Film Festival were created in production courses within the Film, Television and Theatre (FTT) department.

“They are projects done for class, just like a research paper in history, except that many of them are seen by an audience of 1200 or more.” Mandell said. “I believe the quality of filmmaking has improved every year. This year’s batch of films, overall, are really well done.”

Often engaging the community by filming with students and locals in well-known area locations, this year’s crop of films may prove to be the strongest yet. The Film Festival will play host to 13 different and diverse selections from students within the FTT department.

“I think students will be surprised at the quality of filmmaking and surprised at the topics undertaken,” Mandell said. “Many of the thirteen films are made to convey a strong message or tackle tough subjects in thought provoking ways. Others are just plain enjoyable, plus there’s a surprise star who pops in too.”

In light of the recent debate over the presence of “The Vagina Monologues” on campus, one film of interest for students may be “Loyal Daughters,” a film by Molly Miner, Kathleen Kudia and Monica Engel that profiles the cast of Notre Dame’s last production of the Eve Ensler play. In the context of the heated discussions that took place in recent memory, as well as last fall’s student-produced work of the same name, “Loyal Daughters” will inevitably be an affecting look at a controversial and timely subject.

Directed by Jean Milan and Rama Gottumukkala, “My Rapist” takes a straightforward and powerful approach to discussing this most personal of crimes with three victims. (Gottumukkala is an assistant managing editor of The Observer). The film alludes to the issue of breaking the silence about the victimization of these women, and in turn asks the audience to examine its own views and sensitivities as well as the consequences of remaining silent.

A third film to tackle deeper issues of personal identity and the complexity of societal pressure is “Flipped,” by Lisa Goepfrich, Brandon Kusz and Fabian Farias. In a somewhat “reversed” environment, “Flipped” envisions a high school where the majority of the students and teachers are gay, and a young heterosexual student named Nick struggles with hiding his sexuality. The difficulties, harassment and even violence that Nick faces during the film quietly echo what the filmmakers view as our society’s own discomfort with homosexuality and the problems that gay teens face today.

Taking a lighthearted, more humorous approach is a film by Katie Johnson and Tamara Gillings entitled “Yiayia and the Evil Eye,” in which a Greek teenage boy is convinced, courtesy of a story from Greek folklore, that his blue eyes – with their supposedly uncontrollable power – could unwittingly bring about destruction and death. Is the evil power of his eyes a real, terrifying phenomenon, or is the problem, as his optometrist suggests, entirely in his head? When the optometrist disappears, all bets are off.

Noble Robinette, Jacob Imm and Mike Molenda bring a documentary filmmaker’s insight to the discussion with “Welcome to Snyderville.” Filmed in the tiny town of Roseland, Ind., “Welcome to Snyderville” looks at the ever-present and at times stifling voices of David and Dorothy Snyder, two town council members whose stronghold on Roseland politics often left the town’s residents disgruntled and protesting. Whether viewed as an exposé on small-town politics or a character study in power and its affect on the human ego, “Welcome to Snyderville” takes a different and intriguing approach to the community right outside the boundaries of Notre Dame.

Another film that takes a different angle on a familiar subject at the University, vocation to the priesthood, is Emily Andreas’ and Rin Westcott’s “Stained Glass Ceiling.” Through interviews and alternated voice-overs, the film chronicles one devout woman’s desire to be ordained as a Catholic priest, questioning the audience’s and Church’s opinions on the subject in a subtle and compelling way.

The most literary film is that of Trevor Park and Pacifico Soldati’s black-and-white “Adaptation,” literally an adaptation of the short story “Theft” by Depression-era writer Katherine Anne Porter. It tells the story of a dispute over a missing purse between a young maid and an older woman.

There is also the heart-wrenching “In Memory,” in which Ishira Kumar, Nich DeCapioi and Beth Napoli examine one woman’s descent into Alzheimer’s disease, through the eyes of her young granddaughter who watches her grow older and slowly becomes senile.

The ambitious “SAGEWISE da Versitle 1,” is a documentary by Edward Song following Stefan Rios, a northern Indiana UPS deliveryman, on his break dancing journey across the United States. He travels from Indiana all the way to New York to try and fulfill his dreams.

The film festival rounds out with another four films, including “Unseen” directed by Gottumukkala and Dan Moore, “666-7734” directed by Tedd Hawks and Ishira Kumar, “Shadow Boxing” directed by Darrin Bragg, Michael Burke and Mike Peterson and “De Capo al Fine” directed by Erin Allen and Beth Napoli.