Last Thursday marked the first annual Georgetown Student Film Festival, hosted by GUTV, the Georgetown University television station. This showcase was viewed by a sold-out crowd in McNeir auditorium and featured 12 films by eight Georgetown filmmakers. To say that this event was a success would be an understatement. It was awesome.
The event, put together by Ted Bauer, (CAS ‘03), was not only well organized but featured a distinguished panel of judges, including two Georgetown professors, Bernard Cook and Steven Wurtzler who teach several film courses in the English Department. Also serving as judges were several members of the D.C. film community, including Carl Cephas of the Washington Psychotronic Film Society and Mike Canning of the Hill Rag Newspaper “At the Movie” column.
Note: Due to length constraints, this review of the film festival will only talk about a few of the many films screened. All of the films were impressive and well-made and all of the filmmakers are deserving of the highest praise. I encourage all to watch the films when they are screened in the following weeks on GUTV.
The festival, which lasted approximately three hours, got off to a great start with its first movie, You Should Be Friends With Adam P. Countee, by non-other than Adam P. Countee (CAS ‘03). An extremely funny comedy based upon a character’s recurring nightmares, Countee’s film includes many hilarious moments through a well-executed plot and humorous performances. One moment that received a particularly uproarious response from the crowd features Countee standing on the Supreme Court steps with a sign that reads “free O.J.” only to have someone walk by and take a glass of the free orange juice.
The next film Crossings, by Gabriella Saurel (SFS ‘03), was one of the best and took home second place in the awards ceremony after the show. It was shot in 16-millimeter and is particularly beautiful as it was set in Paris, where Saurel spent the summer taking a film class.? Saurel’s use of black and white film adds real depth to a movie that illustrates the dark story of a man who, recently fired and left by his companion, decides to find new meaning in his life. The spectacular location, especially the scenes on the Seine, and evocative soundtrack certainly bring forth the emotion and power of the film. Beautifully shot and directed, Saurel’s combination of style and a great cast made her film deserving of the highest praise.
The third film Alaska, by Eric Nazar (CAS ‘03), presented a different angle and a refreshing twist to the festival. A documentary about Nazzar’s time spent in Alaska last summer, the film is well narrated, well edited and shot in several gorgeous, almost mystical, locations. Nazar has created a really solid piece of work and has shown that students can create quality non-fiction films that address a wide range of real life issues. This film was a very nice addition to a festival that was, for the most part, dominated by fictional films.
The next film, Mayhem, directed by Brenden Kredell (SFS ‘01) and written by Emile Dishongh (CAS ‘01) was also a fan favorite and took home the third place trophy at the event. Mayhem, a project for Kredell’s Hitchcock class, revolves around a man and a woman who, by an unlikely twist of fate, find love. Strange at times and extremely funny at others, this film contains many Hitchcock references and contains several scenes filmed in Lauinger Library and around the D.C. area, making it very appealing to the Georgetown crowd. Kredell’s film style is unique and his use of editing as well as an intriguing plot keeps viewers interested until the story’s unexpected climax. Kredell, who started the Georgetown Film Society, has truly given his group something to be proud of.
Last but certainly not least, are the festival’s two most highly talked about films. They are Zal Batmanglij (CAS ‘02) and Mike Cahill’s (CAS ‘01) Substance and Lucid Gray. Certainly the raciest and most exciting entries of the evening, these two films combine sex and violence with interesting plots and, in the process, keep viewers glued to the screen. Substance, which begins with a nude couple sitting in the park, lulls the viewer into thinking that this might just be another sappy romance. But when the female lead suddenly says, “Lets just f*ck,” the action quickly picks up, and the movie takes on a fast pace that doesn’t let up. Culminating in an extremely real and violent fight scene in which the main character has his teeth knocked out by a brick, Substance is cleverly planned and amazingly shot . The editing in the film is of professional quality and the shot selection and style is reminiscent of directors such as Darren Aronofsky and Guy Ritchie.
In Lucid Gray, a last minute entry which the two finished editing the morning of the festival, the two filmmakers employ much of the same style used in Substance but add a whole new dimension in terms of plot development. The story behind this movie involves a struggling and complex relationship as well as a possible rape and several exciting party scenes that will keep the viewers talking for quite some time. Most notable were a number of shots in the film that were incredibly set up, in particular, the opening sequence in the car and the final shot of the main character diving into a pool. The effort and creativeness in setting up these shots was simply amazing and the crowd was, for lack of a better expression, blown away. These directors were awarded both the first-place prize and the “crowd favorite” trophy.
This was one of the best artistic experiences Georgetown has had to offer in the past year. The films were undoubtedly worth seeing and the informative question and answer session with the judges and directors really pulled the night together. Bauer said afterwards, “I thought it was a really good event and showcased the talents of a lot of people on this campus who had previously gone unappreciated. I think the purpose of GUTV is to entertain and to inform and this film festival both entertained our community and informed it about how big film really is here. Next year I hope we get a lot more entries, go a full three hours and are in a bigger space.” If all goes well, next year will be even better.