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Notre Dame Student Film Festival Entertaining and Enlightening

Troy Mathew | Monday, January 24, 2011

With topics ranging from the controversial Westboro Baptist Church to the difficulties of single motherhood, the 22nd Annual Notre Dame Student Film Festival was highly entertaining and impressive. The festival, featuring 15 short films and documentaries, aired this weekend in the Browning Cinema at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center. Here are some of the highlights:

“The Elect”

The film provides a fascinating and unflinching look at the everyday lives of the hateful Westboro Baptist Church. The church uses jarring signs and slogans, nationwide picketing tours and heinous Lady Gaga parodies to spread their word. The most striking thing about this documentary was its glimpse into the lives of the church’s youth. Children stand with the church’s adult members at their protests, using hateful speech to condemn a wide variety of targets. One child is shown desperately begging his mother to let him join the church on a trip to San Francisco for a protest. The way in which the hateful ideology of the church is passed on to children is truly shocking and makes for an enthralling documentary.


Suspenseful and creepy, this black and white film depicts the sinister plot of a man and woman. The movie, without using any dialogue, focuses on sounds such as footsteps and a screeching teakettle to keep the audience on edge.

“Picking Up America”

This documentary features four people in their twenties on a cross-country road cleaning trip. The film captures funny and cringe-worthy moments, including the disposal of roadside urine-filled plastic bottles and the group’s drinking of a bottle of chocolate milk found in a ditch. The initiative members’ passion for their cause is truly remarkable, and comes through in their interviews. They accomplish staggering results and meticulously weigh each bag of trash to track their statistics.

“Searching for Dillinger”

This movie shows a humorous glimpse into Monterey, Ind., the town known for housing legendary gangster John Dillinger. Monterey is mentioned as the perfect place to hide from the law, with no local police force, hospitable locals and a location in the middle of nowhere. Town historians and local experts on gang activity lead the viewer on a tour of Dillinger’s hangouts. The colorful locals and captions provide consistent laughs and function to introduce the audience to a part of the country they would have never thought to check out on their own.

“Rosa y Luna”

The film follows the struggles of a single mother returning to the workforce after giving birth. Tania, the actress playing Rosa, successfully shows the heartbreak of leaving her child off at a neighbor’s as she leaves for the construction site. Likewise, the actors communicate brilliantly and largely without dialogue. The shifty eyes of a male coworker, the mournful glance of a mother leaving her child and the casual offering of a cigarette en route to work are all simple gestures that work perfectly to express emotion and advance characterization.

The high-quality work presented at the film festival  made for a great show. Visit ftt.nd.edu to find out more about the film department and its upcoming events.