film reel image

film reel image

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The 26th Annual Notre Dame Student Film Festival- Jan. 29th, 30th, and the 31st, 2015

Greetings from Browning Cinema in Notre Dame, Indiana. This is my second time covering this glorious film festival. All in all, there were eleven films shown with running times ranging anywhere between 7 and 17 minutes in length. Many of them contained a prevalent hand-held, camera footage technique which I've always dug. Also, a host of many genres popped up but sadly no science fiction. Boo! Anyway, here are some of the highlights along with star ratings:

Cold Open * * * Stars
Collaborators: Brian Lach, Lesley Stevenson
-Not exactly sure what this thing was about but I give credit to filmmakers Lach and Stevenson for keeping my attention anyway. With tight editing and a techno-style film score, this is a quirky, fun little short concerning the aspect of writer's block (at least that's what the festival program said). Cold Open using the "Bend" as its go-to locale, could also be stated as being part silent film and part spy thriller. A nifty way to start things off. Of note: I met the director and the star of "Open" minutes before the lights went down. I should have gotten their deeper perspective before writing this review. Alas, still a solid three star rating.

Much Ado After School * * * Stars
Collaborators: Brian Lach, Nicole Sganga
-Wholly original documentary about some kids at a South Bend school who channel their inner Shakespeare. What threw me for a loop was that the back story of one of their fathers proved startling (he was a hardcore drug addict until he got straight). Overall, a harmless and mildly compelling affair.

The Night Out * * * 1/2 Stars
Collaborators: Mitchell Abraham, Zachary Ostapchenko, Weibo Chen
-The best entry in this year's festival. It looks as if it was made by a born filmmaker. Great camerawork, a little campy but severely eerie, The Night Out is about three drunk dudes who feel like crashing one last party. Bad move. They get more than they bargained for. Granted, this is a student flick that contains a sickening conclusion (and that's a good thing). It leaves you with the notion that everyone dies in the end. I've seen movies like this in House of 1000 Corpses, Open Water, and Creepshow. The Night Out triumphantly carries out the tradition.

Eat Ride Sleep * * * Stars
Collaborators: Mikey Nichols, Lauren Josephson
-Documentary that sort of reminded me of a TV movie from 1983 (The Terry Fox Story). In that film, a cancer patient (with one leg) runs across Canada. In Eat Ride Sleep, a recovering cancer patient rides his bike (cross country) from Florida to California. The bike rider in question, is 9-year old C.J. Burford. He is quite mature for his age and wise beyond his years. His unique charisma makes this thing work. Oh and look for local news footage of his plight in little snippets here and there. This is American Flyers for young tykes.

Metta Johnson's Video Portfolio * * * Stars
Collaborators: Will Neal, Nick Desmone
-Call it a parody. Call it a spoof. Call it something that Will Ferrell or Adam Sandler would have done in their early days. Anyway, this is an eight minute short pertaining to failed (and fictional) film scribe, Metta Johnson. Profanity laden and enhanced with fantasy elements, Metta Johnson's Video Portfolio is stupid funny, but it's good stupid funny.

Isn't It Pretty to Think So * * * Stars
Collaborators: John Rodgers, Carleigh Coyne
-Wasn't keen on the ending but everything up to that point was pitch perfect. It's about family dysfunction with twentysomething Owen coming back to his kin via a stint in drug rehab. It looked like half of this tension-filled short was filmed in Granger, Indiana while the other half was obviously shot in Chicago. The acting is decent (especially the guy playing Owen who had some searing screen presence here) making Isn't It Pretty to Think So the best ensemble of ND Fest 2015. Of note: I loved the closing shot with Chicago's Navy Pier in the distant background. Just think a strong fade out with veritable lens adjustment.

Curry & Erin * * * 1/2 Stars
Collaborators: Eric O'Donnell, Maureen Gavin
-Documentary about an ALS patient and her husband of 27 years who faithfully cares for her. Curry & Erin is gut wrenching and at times, difficult to watch. From my understanding, this is one of the worst diseases a human being could get. The result: Somber and effective but could have used actual interviews from its subjects. A minor oversight though.

Reparation * * * Stars
Collaborators: Anthony Patti, Bryan Dimas
-Met one of the stars (Joe Roman) of this horror thriller in which the look reminded me of a cross between a Nine Inch Nails music video and one of the Saw movies. Creepy and disturbing stuff.

J2K * * * Stars
Collaborators: Grace Carini, Hunter Speese
-Not sure what to make of this comedy short. It's I guess about a woman giving birth and having no idea why or how she got pregnant. Look for plenty of tongue-in-cheek overtones, a picture book with naughty, sexual innuendos, and an elderly woman brandishing leather and a whip. Crazy.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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