Student filmmakers are receiving an opportunity to demonstrate their talent in a short film competition sponsored by Georgetown University Television later this evening.
12 student-produced films are to be judged on the quality of screenplay, production, and acting by alumnus and television series writer Jordon Nardino (COL ’00), Community writer Adam Countee, and CBS showrunner Michael Reisz. Though the judges will not be present at the film festival, Nardino and Countee will share their advice and discuss their accomplishments in the film industry with student filmmakers through previously recorded videos.
The films display darker sides of the human experience, with a particular focus on the shadows that depression, delusion, and peer pressure can cast on college students. Whether this focus on student life is from a deliberate desire to underline these issues among students or simply the opportune use of the cast and setting available at Georgetown, the films’ focus on students makes for relatable subject matter that, nevertheless, steers clear of cliché storylines.
John Cunha’s (COL ’16) Stories recounts an individual’s experience with depression by interweaving separate stories of struggles in a continuous narrative within the margins of a novel. “I hope it’s something people can relate to, even if they’ve never found themselves at such extremes,” Cunha wrote in an email to the Voice. Stories explores a profound subject and displays a compelling correlation between image and sound, borrowing from the soundtrack of Spike Jonze’s Her. One of the features that makes the film so original, however, also has the potential to overwhelm: as the characters find their voice in the words written in a book, the dialogue is eliminated and instead replaced by an overly extended voice-over.
Brooks Birdsall’s (COL ‘14) Singular Germinate presents a fascinating storyline with impressive cinematography. What seems to explore traditional themes of the social pressures put on young people by themselves and their friends becomes a visually entrancing examination of internal duality that, according to Birdsall, parallels the pre-professional and philanthropic duality encountered by many students.
Other submissions include Matthew LaBau’s (COL ‘16) The Writer and Petals by Brett Tracey (MSB ‘16), both of which feature impressive plot twists and beautiful imagery.
Yet the films are not limited to the student experience. Nicholas Alfieri’s (MSB ’15) Gray Areas opens with an ominous scene depicting three masked men preparing to break into a house in Burleith. Though the film features jarring artificial lighting, it displays remarkable acting talent on behalf of first-time actor Michael Orso (MSB ’17) as well as a shockingly dark ending that demands moral questioning and investigation.
The festival features primarily narrative films over experimental films and documentaries due to the latter submissions’ prolonged length. The lack of female narrative submissions creates what Katherine Propper (COL ’15), one of the festival’s organizers, sees as a dangerous domination of the male voice in the festival, especially due to the usage of documentary and experimental films. Propper’s criticism seems to ring true in that male protagonists are front and center in most films, while the female protagonists, few in number, are written by male voices. According to Propper, “there’s always going to be that kind of skew in the way the stories are when it’s singularly white guys making the content.” Despite Propper’s trepidations, the festival will be screening a documentary on women’s rights and the effects of sexual abuse on college campuses.
In spite of its limited popularity in recent years, the film festival is promising in content and an impressive judging panel. Many students were not even aware of the festival in producing their work—some films were originally for class assignments or for the senior arts show. Nonetheless, the films demonstrate student talent in both acting and cinematography with sharp images, compelling soundtracks, and evocative plots.
Propper is thrilled to see the recently established film and media studies program making a difference on campus, noting, “The program is a huge reason why there has been an influx in filmmaking and why there has been so much more access to filmmaking equipment and resources. It’s cool to see tangible results.”
GUTV Film Festival
8 p.m., April 24