Student film festival draws laughs, sniffles, and thought-provoking questions

Students, faculty and members of the public were treated to a selection of films made by students as part of UCR’s Department of Theater, Film and Digital Production’s two-day film festival this past Thursday, March 9 and Friday, March 10. The event, held at the screening room of the Arts Building, showcased nine films in total ranging from the totally serious to the lighthearted and funny.

The festival began with the most “amateur” films of the program. Maira Brogniart’s “Haiku” started the night off with laughs as the story traversed around the everyday life of a pair of oranges (yes, the fruit). The film was very brief, and then led into director Carlos Viejobueno’s “Create Your Own Adventure,”  a film inspired by the children’s book series, “Choose Your Own Adventure.” The film, told through a first person perspective, showed occasional text on the screen for the audience to read, signifying the many options the film could take.

Next up was the tongue-in-cheek, “Dirty Boy,” directed by Nathan Goodwin. The film was the first of the night that had a clear sign of a bigger production value. It was also the most outrageous, following the experiences of titular Dirty Boy, Tristan, as he lives with his roommate (aka “The Bitchy Roomate” per the credits). Tristan is a bit of a slob given the fact that he lays around, eats whatever, wherever and whenever he wants and is a perverse sexual deviant. He likes to wear his roommate’s clothing much to his sexual pleasure but also to the annoyance of the Bitchy Roommate. The rest of the film decides to get even more hectic. Let’s just say for the sake of space in this article that the rest of the film involves death, murder and vengeful ghosts. The film was the most self-aware film of the night in the fact that it knew it shouldn’t be taken seriously (such as a bottle of “fake blood” being clearly seen during a death scene). “Dirty Boy” proved to be a highlight of the festival and left the audience groaning and laughing throughout.

Jaspery Goh/Highlander

Another one of the films brought the setting much closer to home (filmed around the UCR apartments) and at the same time it proved to be the funniest and my personal favorite of the night. Directed by Chad Maxwell, “The Break Up of Jacob and Becca” follows the titular characters as we see them right in the process of breaking up. Becca insists that Jacob is not interested in her anymore, claiming that “he’s a gay,” to which Jacob denies. What follows are some hilarious scenes through the use of flashbacks (such as when Becca claims Jacob got aroused during a date night viewing of “Brokeback Mountain”). It’s the perfect comedic timing of the actors that makes the film much more successful in this regard. And on the cinematography side, the film was the brightest and most colorful-looking film of the night, making the film much more pleasant to watch. By the end, it had the audience in stitches and it was well-deserved for being the funniest film of the program.

Two of the night’s films, “The Search” and “Changing of the Guard” showcased how daring the students behind these films can be. In the former, director Rashaun Richardson proved just how mind-bending a film can be in roughly 10 minutes with a convoluted ending that asks the question: Is the greatest enemy you have, yourself? In the latter, Director Root Park exemplified how emotionally charged a student film can be against the backdrop of a dying father and the repercussions that surround his adult children. At its abrupt conclusion, the audience couldn’t help but give a slow hesitant applause to “The Search” due to its mind-boggling finale. “Changing of the Guard” brought out audible sniffles from the audience along with the loudest applause of the night thus far caused by the emotional nature of the film.

The following two films, Chrystal Kim’s “Salvation” and Adam Wagner’s “Thick Grey Line” brought with them fascinating concepts. “Salvation” follows a girl in the afterlife, whose job is to acquire more souls from those who are on the verge of death. The “Thick Grey Line” asks the question of what someone would do if they were able to go back in time to save their child’s life. The stunning creativity by UCR’s students are shown really well with these two films whose concepts can easily be expanded upon.

The concluding film of the night, and the headlining feature of the event, “The Same Old Line,” directed by Stephanie Ghiya, was visually and philosophically the most alluring film of them all. The film chronicles the life of Evie, who for a good amount of the film is portrayed as a lifeless being (as seen when carried by her partner out of her room or when responding to an individual). The film tackles the themes of feminism and how the world is seen through her eyes as a woman in a patriarchal world. It has the most politically charged tone of the films (such as a dinner scene in which all the guests rave at how great feminism is). Given its tone and overall themes, by the end of film I was left with more questions than say the mind-bending “The Search” earlier in the night. Visually, it was the most impressive film of the night, with production matching that of many indie features such as “Ex Machina” (which coincidentally was the film I was most reminded of when watching “The Same Old Line”). Of all the films, I would say Ghiya’s directorial effort could be easily produced into a bigger-budgeted film.

UCR’s Film Festival taught me two things. For one, our students are very creative. From the unique “Create Your Own Adventure” to the fascinating “Salvation,” the creativity is not lost with the students that makes these films. And secondly, UCR has very promising individuals who hold a bright future in the film industry or wherever else life will take them. Films like “Changing of the Guard” and “The Same Old Line” showcased the passionate dramatic flair the actors express and the direction the individuals behind the camera take to make a successful short film. All in all, the two-day festival was an engaging experience to all those in attendance who saw the pure passion of the individuals that makes these films burst out of the screen.