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Sunday, January 29, 2017

The 28th Annual Notre Dame Student Film Festival- Jan. 26th, 27th, and the 28th, 2017

Notre Dame Student Film Festival 2017Greetings from Browning Cinema in Notre Dame, Indiana. This is my fourth time covering this celebrated film festival. All in all, there were 13 short films with running times ranging anywhere between two and twenty-three minutes. One of them even had my name as its title (Jesse clocking in at 7:58). As with most ND's film festivals, a lot of the material is comprised of R-rated angst and R-rated comedy. This year, every short minus the documentaries, went to mostly darker places. Anyway, here are the highlights along with star ratings:

Prayer Associate * * * Stars
Collaborators: Ryan Taylor, Ben Vasquez
Image result for notre dame student film festival 2017-Prayer Associate is the quintessential way to start off an ND flick fest. It's a silent short with shifting tones in music and dire humor. "Associate" is about Woody, a guy working for the Department of Prayer Relations. He goes looking for love but should've just answered his prayer request in a more professional manner. The characters of God and the Devil show up and a bit of irony arises towards Prayer Associate's solemn conclusion. The proceedings were filmed partly on Eddy Street Commons near Notre Dame's campus.

Peace at the Pipeline * * * Stars
Collaborators: Erin Lattimer, Ryan Leen
-Peace at the Pipeline is a loose docu about some native Americans protesting the placement of an extended pipeline in desolate North Dakota. There are off the cuff interviews, interviewee soliloquies, and vast, scenic views of the Peace Garden State. I'm a sucker for documentaries and there is rarely one I don't like. With "Peace", I just wanted more. At barely over ten minutes, it still sort of ended abruptly.

Debajo de los arboles (Beneath the Trees) * * * 1/2 Stars
Collaborator: Crystal Avila
Image result for notre dame student film festival 2017-Did I mention that Donald Trump really needs to see this? Anyway, Debajo de los arboles is a personal and thoughtful documentary about an illegal immigrant who hid beneath some trees (in Yuma, Arizona many years ago) to avoid getting deported back to Mexico. The subject of "airboles" is an older man, a man whose memory is slowly leaving, a man who owns a 50-year-old camera, and a man who carries ancient memories around in the form of pictures. His presence and demeanor demand your full attention. After a Saturday night screening, I met the stars and director of "airboles". And yes, I got my picture taken with them too. What a treat.

Filtrado * * * 1/2 Stars
Collaborators: Rosie Biehl, John Salazar
-A real humanitarian does real humanitarian work supplying Guatemalan kids with clean water for their health and survival. That's the gist of Filtrado, the best of the bunch at this year's festival. Filtrado is a real tribute to directors Rosie Biehl and John Salazar. They traveled halfway around the world and ended up making such an insightful and intelligent docu. We Americans will never look at our faucets the same way again.

Jesse * * * Stars
Image result for notre dame student film festival 2017Collaborators: Alex Mansour, Jessica Wilson
-Jesse has the finest acting of any of the short films at this year's festival. There's a well done, contemporary opening credit sequence here, a fantastic, brooding musical score from Alex Mansour, and a backdrop of snow-covered skies (that's an added bonus). Jesse is about a young girl who simply doesn't want to believe that her brother has died.

Improv on the Riz * * * Stars
Collaborators: Micaela Powers, Craig Schmier
-Improv on the Riz is similar to last year's Spark of Madness. The only difference is that it has to do with improv comedy as opposed to stand-up comedy. Plus, the culture is Navajo-based and the improv shows are within the confines of sunny Arizona. Most of the interview discussions are interesting and revelatory. The only female comedian present, does most of the talking (she seems to be the comedic group's voice and risible spokesperson, ha).

Take Two * * * Stars
Collaborators: Mariel Cuellar, Meagan Snodell
-Dark, unsettling, claustrophobic, and creepy, Take Two has to do with I guess, schizophrenia. It makes you ponder the question of what would happen if said schizophrenic forgot to take her prescribed medication. The female lead in "Two", conveys a realistic aptitude of fear. It's a sufficient, dialogue-free performance.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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