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Friday, January 29, 2016

The 27th Annual Notre Dame Student Film Festival- Jan. 29th, 30th, and the 31st, 2016

The 27th Annual Notre Dame Student Film FestivalGreetings from Browning Cinema in Notre Dame, Indiana. This is my third time covering this glorious festival. All in all, there were eleven flicks shown with running times ranging anywhere between 4 and 19 minutes. The head of the film department at ND, said that these films were shot as deepened class projects only to become works of art. Well stated. All three festivals I have covered in South Bend have contained a dark side to a lot of the student directors. 2016 provided the darkest set of entries so far. Five of the shorts were silent, three of them were documentaries, three of them were comedies, and one had nothing to do with Transformers (that would be Revenge of the Fallen, LOL). The University of Notre Dame seemed to be used a lot more as a locale than in 2014 or 2015. Anyway, here are some of the highlights along with star ratings:

Five Simple Steps * * * 1/2 Stars
Collaborators: Lauren Josephson, Camille Muth, Zach Ostapchenko
-As an extremely strong entry to open up the festivities, Five Simple Steps inhibits a funny side to death. We get to see the grim reaper being vulnerable and conscientious. And at eleven and a half minutes, "Steps" is witty, darkly funny, and tongue-in-cheek with some neat zoom shots.

Luggage * * Stars
Collaborators: Tanner Cipriano, John Salazar

Spark of Madness * * * 1/2 Stars
Collaborator: Anna Gonzalez
-Over 12,000 students go to The University of Notre Dame. Only 20 of them aspire to be stand-up comedians. That's the basis for this documentary about twentysomethings who study hard and then head to Legends (an ND bar venue) to get on stage and show you the funny. Great interviews, clean editing, and some tidy, archive footage from Late Night with David Letterman (circa 1994) give you "Spark's" rub. Amy Schumer better watch out!

Glitch * * * Stars
Collaborators: Moira Hamilton, Maddie Landon
-In my opinion, Glitch is partly inspired by The Matrix (all you gotta do is notice the Matrix code or "green rain"). Heck, you could probably throw in Johnny Mnemonic as well. Being a Keanu Reeves double whammy, I kinda dug the fight scenes, I liked the movie within a movie residue, and the music felt like a foot-tapping, cyber slam. There is no spoon (ha-ha).

Patrolling Sandy Hook * * * 1/2 Stars
Collaborators: Caroline Clark, Kelly Quinn
-Just like in 2014's The Last Free Place, an ND student ventures way off campus (with camera crew in tote) to get the inside scoop on happenings we the general public, hardly knew anything about. This time it's in Florida and now we're talking about a guy who thinks the whole Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting was a hoax. Fascinating stuff whether you believe it didn't happen or not (I did by the way). Patrolling Sandy Hook floored me. In fact, it knocked me back a pike. The best and most nonplussed entry in this year's festival.

Revenge of the Fallen * * 1/2 Stars
Collaborator: Wisdom Mak

Platonica * * * Stars
Collaborators: John Haley, Emily Dauer
-Just call this thing Carol (a 2015 Oscar nominee) for the student filmmaker generation. The only difference is that the setting is present day, there is less innuendo overall, and there is absolutely no sex. The dialogue in Platonica is only spoken by two people. And as a short chronicling a time-eloped, same-sex relationship, the (duo) female leads give raw performances. You can tell over time that they'll improve on their craft and eventually make it big one day. My reviewing colleague (Cole Pollyea) rated this one right at the top.  

Ambiguous Encounter * * Stars
Collaborators: Liza Connor, Rose Biehl

Anthony: Portrait of a Boxer * * * Stars
Collaborators: Indi Jackson, Austin Burgett
-Straightforward documentary about a boxer who has been honing his craft since the age of six and habitually spits three hours a day just to lose weight for a fight. Anthony Sims Jr. (said boxer and docu subject) has an easy presence towards the camera. He mugs and preaches and puts other fighters to the ground. I never heard of his hometown before (Plainfield, Indiana) but now I feel it's been put on the map. As a ten minute-plus, short film, Anthony: Portrait of a Boxer isn't a full knockout but it gets the decision. Rating: 3 stars.

Edison Brockwell * * * Stars
Collaborators: Keenan Kelly, Drew Ronson, Frank Lanham
-Hitchcockian? Sort of. Atmospheric? Definitely. Anyway, Edison Brockwell gets my vote for being the best silent film out of the five that were featured at DeBartolo's sold out event. The lead here was also presented in Luggage (an entry that was screened earlier). In "Brockwell", he faithfully gets something more effective to work with. Murder as theme, great camerawork as a medium, and a surprise revelation that I didn't see coming is what's on tap. Rating: 3 eldritch stars.

No Presentation * * 1/2 Stars
Collaborators: Eric Ways, John McDonough

Written by Jesse Burleson

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