Student Film Festivities
Jimmy Kemper | Sunday, January 26, 2014
While Oscar buzz dominates nationwide, a great film event rolled out much closer to home this past weekend.
The Notre Dame Student Film Festival ran from Jan. 23 through 25 at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, and featured 14 works of 31 student filmmakers. These movies were culled from the class projects of the advanced, intermediate and introductory video production and film courses taught in the Department of Film, Television and Theatre. And frankly, they were all outstanding.
The films ranged from the serious, like “The Suicide Disease,” to the comedic, such as “Unexpected Fortune,” and even to the dark and terrifying, like “Dinner for None.” Such a wide variety of films gave the audience the ability to experience an ample assortment of emotions over a short two-hour period.
One of the quirkiest films presented at the festival was “Rice Bag,” an off-the-wall comedy about the wacky events surrounding a blindfolded man tied to a chair in the middle of nowhere. This ridiculous premise allowed for some great character interactions and a number of laughs as they struggled to figure out what to do with the constrained man. As ridiculous as the initial premise was, the twists and turns over the course of the next five minutes were even more ludicrous and left the viewer in a confused, but satisfied state by the end.
Another highlight was “The Last Free Place,” a documentary taking a thought-provoking look at the lives of the eccentric residents of Slab City, a hodgepodge of trailers, tents and other campsites built on the remains of Camp Dunlap, a World War II marine base. The people of Slab City have abandoned modernity for a plethora of reasons, whether it be to avoid taxes, escape the harsh reality of poverty or even to just get off the grid and experience an unprecedented amount of freedom. The film shows the struggles of their minimalistic lifestyle as they attempt to scavenge whatever resources they can muster in the middle of the Colorado Desert, but also examines the simple joys in their lives. At one point, Slab City’s denizens gather around a bonfire of otherwise unusable objects, laughing and singing campfire songs as the trash of the modern world burns away. The film made a great point of showing how these people made an enjoyable life for themselves without the comforts of contemporary American culture.
One of the more purely artistic films was “Discordance,” a short chronicling the rise and fall of a fictional on-campus relationship set to the tune of a single piano. The character development was phenomenal, especially considering how not a single line of dialogue was spoken. “Discordance” pulled at the viewers’ heartstrings and created a masterfully wonderful, bittersweet love story over the course of five minutes.
“Lilith’s Game” was one of the more terrifying films shown at the festival. This short follows a young man as the disturbing horrors lurking within his video game escape into the real world. “Lilith’s Game” was a particularly enjoyable take on the classic scary movie genre. It’s exceptionally notable thanks to the sound direction of the film.
The only noise the characters make are screams, making the moments of horror that much more intense. The soundtrack was really unique as well, relying only on dubstep and other electronic music in order to successfully convey a wide variety of emotions in a relatively short amount of time. The artistic direction was also remarkable, especially the way the special effects of the video game escape into the real world at the same time the villain does.
Overall, I was really impressed with how all the shorts managed to develop powerful and interesting characters, relationships, and stories with such a limited amount of actual screen time. All of the films were of incredibly high quality and managed to achieve the goals the directors set out to reach. The Notre Dame Student Film Festival was a huge success, and I cannot wait to see what they have in store for us next year.