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Notre Dame’s annual film festival to feature works exploring personal stories

| Friday, January 24, 2020

After years of trying to remain behind the camera, senior Gretchen Hopkirk forced herself into the spotlight quite literally, setting up a tripod in front of the Golden Dome.

Looking inward for her subject matter, Hopkirk decided to produce a film discussing her relationship with her friends, the University and herself, which was chosen to be featured in Notre Dame’s annual student film festival this weekend (Editor’s Note: Hopkirk is a video producer for The Observer).

Courtesy of Ted Mandell

In “Regular Poor Asian,” student filmmaker Kenny Xu, who contributed to two films that will be featured in the festival, explores Asian representation in the entertainment industry.

All of the films created by students in film, television and theatre (FTT) production classes over the previous spring and fall semesters were considered for the film festival. Out of an estimated 75 projects, 12 films were chosen to be featured.

Ted Mandell, film professor and faculty organizer of the annual festival, chooses the films to be included in the festival with input from the other faculty members who teach production classes.

Mandell said he looks to include films representing a variety of genres, but time constraints also affect the films chosen. The films range from four to 14 minutes, and include works across varying levels of experiences — from introductory to to advanced production classes.

This year, Mandell said, some students have taken a more personal take on the topics they are covering.

“There’s some soul searching going on in some of these films,” Mandell said. “I would hope the student body sees a bit of themselves in many of the films.”

Hopkirk’s film in particular aims to spark a conversation to normalize the idea that perfection is unattainable — which is OK, she said.

The title of her film, “Don’t Be Afraid to F*** Up,” is a nod to one of the main rules of improv comedy by which Hopkirk and her friends in the Humor Artists improv comedy group abide. Although Hopkirk initially began interviewing her friends in the Humor Artists to feature their personal experiences at the University, she decided she needed to take a different approach to her film.

“I realized it wasn’t going to be a great story if I just showed I was capable of turning on a camera and interrogating people,” Hopkirk said.

Filming herself in front of the Dome, Hopkirk decided to discuss her own insecurities and worries openly and honestly, and that footage is woven throughout her film.

“It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done at this school,” Hopkirk said. “It’s hard enough to admit something to yourself. It’s even harder to say it out loud and in public, and then in public in front of a camera, and then show that to your professor and to your classmates.”

Senior Kenny Xu, who worked on two films which will be featured in the festival, also took on a more personal topic with his documentary, “Regular Poor Asian.” The film features comedian Michael Nguyen, known for his podcast “Asian not Asian” and explores Asian representation in the entertainment industry.

“I hope it makes people focus on Asian people, so people are more aware of a whole race of people in America that you don’t see that often in media or see in unconventional roles, but I also know you can’t tackle those issues in 10 minutes,” Xu said.

While Xu flew to New York to meet Nguyen for the documentary, senior Kilian Vidourek traveled to Portland, Oregon, to interview a musician who turns old cassettes and tape recorders into music.

Vidourek said he has been following the musician — who goes by the stage name Amulets — for the past few years, and was interested in getting a glimpse into his daily life and creative process.

“I want people to see how something so beautiful can come from the recycled and reimagined,” Vidourek said. “I want people to feel how inspired and awestruck I always was when listening to his music.”

As a number of the featured films in the past go on to be selected for national and international film festivals, Mandell said the festival serves as a launching pad for students to pursue careers in the entertainment industry, and many filmmakers go on to careers at Netflix, Dreamworks, Universal and more.

“We’re trying to promote creativity in our students and I think you’ll see that in all these films,” Mandell said. “To be creative and have a creative vision is really important no matter what career you go into.”

The annual student film festival begins Friday at 7 p.m, and continues on Saturday and Sunday with showings at 3 and 7 p.m. on both days. Tickets are $7 for the public, $5 for faculty, staff and seniors and $4 for students.

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About Serena Zacharias

Serena is a junior majoring in Neuroscience and Behavior and minoring in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. She hails from the great cheese state of Wisconsin and currently serves as the ND News Editor for the Observer.

Contact Serena