For the past 12 years, the Fokus Film Festival has served as a showcase for student filmmaking in the Montreal community. On Feb. 23, Student TV at McGill (TVM) presented the annual film festival at Cinema du Parc before a panel of professors and film connoisseurs alike. Despite technical difficulties, which set the starting time back by roughly a half-hour, the festival effectively spotlighted some of the incredible filmmaking talent present on McGill campus.
“This festival serves as one of the few opportunities available to students who are interested in practical filmmaking,” Dorsai Ranjbari, executive coordinator for the festival and VP External for TVM, told The McGill Tribune. In the absence of a fully-fledged program for students who want to study film production or other visual arts, she believes that extracurriculars like Fokus are vital in giving people the chance “to experience this whole process of bringing something to life and then screening it on the big screen to receive feedback from the judges and audience.”
The festival’s lineup ranged in categories from drama and comedy to a unique 72-hour film competition, where participants worked within a three-day period to make the best short possible based on the theme “On Second Thought.”
The festival featured an amalgamation of exceptional works. Intro to Home Accounting (winner of the People’s Choice and Best Comedy awards), by Callum Sheedy, Ryan Hammond, and Mei Lin Harrison, tells the charming tale of a stay-at-home husband trying to make ends meet so that he can treat his wife to the nice bottle of red wine she deserves. Everyone’s a Robot in 2049 (winner of the Best Animation award) by Abi Quinlan (U3 Cultural Studies) takes a quirky bunch of friends on an animated adventure full of twists, futuristic cars, and, of course, robots. In the experimental category, “The Last Take” by Lyna Khellef (U2 History) draws its inspiration from Japanese classics to take its viewers through the irony-filled experience of filmmakers trying to get the last shot of their movie just right.
“It was an awesome opportunity to work with such an amazing cast and crew,” Khellef said. “I’ll always cherish the memory [of making this film].”
Khellef cited McGill’s own Yuriko Furuhata, associate professor in the Department of East Asian Studies, and her Japanese cinema class as motivation for creating and submitting the film to Fokus.
Planning the event each year begins with the coordinators calling for submissions. Any student or young filmmaker in Montreal is eligible to submit their work provided it has a run time under 15 minutes. According to Ranjbari, eight coordinators work together to select the final set of films and ensure that any chosen video meets appropriate requirements on quality, equity guidelines, and time restrictions. From there, the rest of the organizing process goes into compiling the films into a viewable format for festival day.
Just like in years past, the Fokus Film Festival’s 2018 iteration proved to be an exciting venue for a diverse array of talents, highlighting the passion brought to the table by McGill’s local content creators.
“We encourage everyone to reach out to TVM if they are interested in filmmaking,” Ranjbari said. “If they are looking for more experience, if they want to have hands-on practice, we have a lot of different resources.”