On May 7, Images Cinema hosted the Student Film Festival showcasing films made by various students from Williams and Bennington College. The films ran the gamut of genres, from light-hearted comedies to heart-pounding horrors, from experimental art films to powerful political documentaries.
Simple, shorter works included Smile, a five minute-long film in which slow motion videos of smiling students, staff and faculty are set to captions about what makes the smilers smile. It was interesting to see the different ways people smiled and the funny things they said about what made them smile. Another short film, Slurs, projected racial slurs typically aimed at Latin-Americans in white text while a narrating voice read them aloud. As the film went on, the slurs were cycled through and overlapped until the end was a massive word soup of slurs. The film documented different historical events and, when presenting them as one in the end, showed us the evolution of racial slurs aimed towards Latin-Americans in the English language.
More programmatic, longer works included American Gothic, a longer, dialogue-free production about fifteen minutes long that sets footage of a couple riding in a car to dissonant, screeching white noise. The couple’s relationship was tense, and the film’s ending depicted them fighting each other while they buried a baby, presumably their newborn child. Unsurprisingly, this film had its roots in American Gothic literature, with the film taking place in a dark forest at night on an off-beat dirt path. The jarring white noise background made the whole scene incredibly uncomfortable to focus on for more than a few minutes at a time, most likely the producer’s intended effect. In Simon Says, another psychological short film, the protagonist Simon flips between two realities, one in which he is alone and despairing, the other in which he is with friends and watching television. During the high exposure, brighter reality, Simon’s friends and the television show, Blue’s Clues, very quickly feel artificial to the audience. Through the rest of the film, we see Simon struggle to grasp the actual reality he lives in while his sock puppet tries to bring him to his senses. The interplay between the two realities manifested itself in some well shot scenes, like when the screen split Simon’s face, or when his image on the mirror wasn’t the same as his actual image. A very well produced film, Simon Says tries to grasp at the true reality of living as a first-year college student by alternating between the reality we think we are living and the reality we actually live in.
Keep Painting Until You Have a Job, on the other hand, chronicles the incredible extents to which a group of artists would go in order to continue churning out work. From rubbing food on paper to suffering injuries in order to continue painting, the film shows both the cutthroat competition amongst fellow artists and the relentless struggle many budding artists have in the modern world, continuously painting and never being able to sustain a happy living. Well shot with great classical orchestral music, the audience comes to sympathize with the artists’ tragic circumstances.
The film festival also showcased a number of lighthearted comedies; Modern Liberal Arts Student was a short satirical film about the modern liberal arts college student with a Bear Grylls Man vs. Wild style of narration. The film expressed that, in spite of the increasing diversity of students at the liberal arts college, most students end up finding careers in consulting.
Another satire, Bic for Her, reacts to BIC’s new pen called the “BIC Cristal For Her Ball Pen.” The narrator satirizes the voices of the designers of this pen, commenting on the new color meant to be easier on the female eyes, the retractable nature being easier on the feminine finger strength and the new pen’s body shape being easier for women to grip. Through sharp critical commentary, Bic for Her satirizes the company’s guileless and out-of-touch attempt to pander towards a female market and encourages us to step back and recognize other unnecessarily gendered objects in our world that only exist because of antiquated gender roles.
And finally, Kick People in the Face, perhaps my favorite out of the comedic short films, takes an outrageous opinion and brings it into the discourse of “politically correct culture.” In the film, three students discuss their right to the opinion that they should be able to kick people in the face. The students deny the violence caused by their opinion, disregarding the feelings others may have about this opinion. This discussion flips between individual shots and videos of each of the three students kicking other students in the face. By taking such a ridiculous opinion and using ideas like “everyone is entitled to their own opinion,” the film tries to make the audience see the value in judging both the consequences holding a certain opinion has on others and the skeptical mindset one must have when evaluating these opinions.
Although some films shown at the festival suffered from the usual symptoms of low-budget college student films – shaky cameras, poor lighting, awkward transitions and title screens – they all left strong messages and impressions on the viewers.
Last Sunday, students from both Williams and Bennington College showcased their short film projects at Images Cinema. Photo courtesy of Images Cinema.