Brandeis Film Festival

Originally published in the Brandeis University Justice

March 27, 2012

You walk into a darkened theater populated by an audience grouped in twos and threes. On the screen, images twist about, a combination of avant-garde film techniques and accidentally unfocused camerawork. You’re at Indie Louies’ third annual film festival, hosted by the Brandeis Film Collective. Let the experience begin.

Indie Louies is Brandeis’ answer to Cannes. You might not see celebrities pulling up in yachts outside of the Mandel Center for the Humanities, but within its doors there was definitely talent—and entertainment—to be found. Students from throughout the country can submit their short films to the festival, all of which are accepted. Viewers are given a ballot to vote for their favorites, which are then recognized at the Awards Ceremony in the Shapiro Campus Center Multipurpose Room. Asia Wok catered, which I like to think is the Waltham equivalent of the hundred-dollar swag bags that celebs get at big awards shows.

The two-day festival started in Cholmondeley’s on Friday night with a screening of BFC’s 48-hour films (a.k.a. films that were made in a 48-hour period earlier this year). Next up, student comedians Emma Avruch ’13 and Diego Medrano ’13 took the stage, performing short individual sets. Cinncinnati-based indie-rock band Foxy Shazam was set to perform after them, but due to a last minute cancellation, several student groups took the stage in their place, including the newly formed band Swanson.

The festivities began Friday night, but Saturday was the main event. From 1 to 5 p.m., 27 films played in the Mandel Center Auditorium. The audience was composed of clumps of friends and film enthusiasts. Host and projector operator Tom Phan ’14 took advantage of the casual crowd to crack a few jokes about the screening’s poor visual quality. It was unclear if the problem lay in the computer, the screen or the projector, but all of the black shading in the films appeared to crackle or glitter with white highlights.

Despite these setbacks, viewers gamely sat through hours of the low- or no-budget films. It was easy to tell which clips were favorites, such as “Don’t Tell Jenn,” a documentary produced by Rhode Island University senior Colby Blanchet. “Don’t Tell Jenn” follows Blanchet as he struggles to remain afloat after dropping out of his California State University exchange program due to lack of funds. Instead of returning home rejected, he filmed the last month of his time in California, including antics like basement sumo-wrestling tournaments and couch surfing around the greater Los Angeles area. Blanchet was able to spend an entire month without revealing to his mom—the “Jenn” of the film’s title—that he was not actually enrolled in school. Students were drawn to the film’s sarcastic humor, as well as to the variety of comedy Blanchet employed, including several songs. The video ended up taking home both Best Documentary/Autobiographical Film and Best Comedy.

Students gather to support amateur video festival

Students gather to support amateur video festival

“Communion Cups and Someone’s Coat,” the music video shot by Myles Tyrer-Vasell ’12 in early February, was another well-liked clip. Tyrer-Vasell created his own video for “Communion Cups,” an Iron and Wine song, as the band currently doesn’t have an official video for the single.

The music video features the ups and downs of a couple’s (Joanna Nix ’12 and Suffolk University student Alec Lawless) love life. The three-minute film was shot all in one take, an impressive feat that worked well given the song’s simple elegance.

A third film that had the crowd in fits of laughter was host Phan’s own mockumentary, “Portrait of a Skater.” The film features Phan’s attempts to “go pro” as a terribly misguided skateboarder. I was impressed by David Yun’s ’14 camerawork and “behind-the-scenes” interviews and flashbacks that have come to exemplify such shows as The Office and Parks and Recreation. Phan, a member of improvcomedy troupe Bad Grammer was hilarious as an uptight skater with little talent who dreams of becoming a star.

Other winners at Indie Louies included “Lifeguard on Duty,” another mockumentary by Temple University’s Janky Liver Productions, and “Premonition,” a psychological thriller by Emerson College senior Anthony Esposito. “Lifeguard on Duty” won People’s Choice Award, Best Screenplay and Best Directing, and “Premonition” secured Best Sound Design, Best Original Score, Best Cinematography and Best Picture. Brandeis alumna Amy Thompson ’11 also took home Best Editing for her comedic short “Lint.”

While not all the films were as successful as the ones I’ve mentioned—a documentary about an elderly woman infested with maggots comes to mind—Indie Louies continues to be a fun and always-interesting look at what our friends and peers are up to behind the camera.


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