With online video clips already a welcome distraction at the library, it’s hardly surprising that the Fokus Film Festival’s popularity has expanded exponentially in the past four years. The festival, hosted by TVMcGill, showcases the works of film-savvy, creative McGill students and awards prizes to the best films in each category. This year, the festival organizers received a record 35 submissions from students of almost every faculty.
Involved in the festival since its beginning, first as a spectator and later as a festival director, Natalie Cross was there through its growth from when it was a couple films in Arts W-250 to this year’s filling of Cinema du Parc. Cross has been amazed by the evolution of the festival, but feels it is the natural progression for an event that plays such an important role on campus.
“[The Fokus Film Festival] allows for students who do not usually have access to creative outlets to explore with their art and push the boundaries in an encouraging and supportive environment,” says Cross.
The competition is divided into five categories: 72-Hour, Experimental, Animation, Non-Fiction, and Fiction (Comedy and Drama). The most exciting event is perhaps the 72-Hour competition, where students have three days to create and submit a short feature film. Silent cinema was this year’s theme. Sound was only allowed as background music or inputted noise, and all dialogue had to be displayed 1920s style, written in a separate frame.
“We wanted to do a 1960s theme, but we felt it wasn’t restraining enough, and it could have been too easy. We really needed to find a restraining theme, but not so restraining that [the filmmakers] would have no artistic flexibility,” says Cross.
This year’s winner, A Streetlight Romantic, by Tim Beeler and Adam Nanji, explores the thoughts of a man haunted by his loved one as he roams the dark alleys of Montreal.
The festival itself, held at Cinema du Parc last Thursday, brought together students and friends from different backgrounds and interests, providing not only an evening of entertainment but also an opportunity to witness the hard work of fellow peers. The screenings were interrupted by fun intermissions featuring raffle prizes.
The festival was judged by a panel that included McGill professors Giles Walker and Antonio Del Fonso, Montreal freelance filmmaker Harley Dover, and Michael Ryan, director of the Young Cuts Film Festival.
According to Cross, a film does not necessarily need cinematic value to snatch first prize in the festival. The judges and audience, aware of student budgets and time restrictions, tend to respect humor over artistic pieces. Winners of each category received prizes such as Final Cut Pro, while the 72-Hour category winner received a wild-card entry into the Young Cuts Film Festival.
Perhaps the most difficult category to enter was Animation. With only two submissions, Medusa Feasts and Sebastian Goes to Work – both stop motion – the films in this category reflected hard work and long hours on the directors’ behalf. Alex Seltzer and Charly Feldman, and Arthur Cormon and Rosa Aiello, respectively, did an impressive job stepping up to the plate.
The crowd’s favourite category was the comedy section, which displayed creative works including comedy winner Difference Makers, the story of Bad News Bob, a professional unfavorable news consultant, and Viewers’ Choice and Best in the Fest winner dj capslock, by Katie Burrell and Jake Heller, which captured the hilarity of a foreign DJ in Montreal.
“The film was received very well. I was really happy to see people laughing,” Heller says. “I also acted in another comedy, titled Professionalism: A Work in Progress, written and directed by Arjun Kumar. It was a lot of fun, and it was actually while shooting that movie that I decided that I wanted to direct one of my own.”
With one submission filmed on an iPhone, the festival displayed how McGill students can produce great art with few resources. All the movies will be uploaded to the TVMcGill website to provide the perfect distraction when writing term papers or studying for finals.
Go to www.tvmcgill.com to see the winners of this year’s Fokus Film Festival.