This weekend, Yale will screen 20 original films at its inaugural annual Student Film Festival.
Organized by members of the Yale Film Alliance, the Film & Media Studies program and the Yale College Dean’s Office, the events will begin this evening and end on Sunday. Aside from “Acceptance,” a film directed by David Chan ’15 that will be screened tonight, all of the 19 films in the festival will be screened on Saturday. Travis Gonzalez ’16, a YFA member and president of undergraduate film group Bulldog Productions, said that while student filmmaking has existed at Yale for decades, this weekend will mark the first time that these filmmakers will be given such a large spotlight.
For some of the filmmakers, such as Ezriel Gelbfish ’16, this weekend will be the first time that their work will be shown to the public. Although Gelbfish made the 15-minute film “The D’Port Dive” a year ago, he said that the Yale Student Film Festival is the first opportunity he has had to screen the film for an audience.
“I’m a great example of why this festival is so exciting,” Gelbfish said. “My film probably isn’t good enough to be screened at larger student film festivals, but I still think it deserves to be seen. Now it will be.”
YFA members interviewed said that while the festival received roughly 700 submissions from filmmakers from places within and outside of Yale, they chose to restrict this year’s showcase to films made by Yalies. Gonzalez said this festival was dedicated to “showing what the [Yale] community had in its pocket,” but noted that coordinators hope to accept outside entries in future years.
Roughly half of the films are being considered for awards in the festival, while the other half will only be screened. Gonzalez said all filmmakers were given the choice of whether or not they wanted their films to be considered for these awards. The judges will be Sandra Luckow, who is a filmmaker and also faculty with Yale School of Art, Brian Price, screenwriter and faculty at UCLA, Johannes DeYoung, Critic and Lead Admin at Yale School of Art, and Lee Faulkner, Associate Director of the DMCA.
The festival’s “Grand Prize” category will give three awards for first, second and third place. Awards will also be granted for “Best Direction,” “Best Cinematography,” “Best Editing” and “Best Screenplay/Story.”
Gonzalez said the judges will base their decisions from a rubric tailored to make fair judgments across genres, as narrative, experimental and documentary films will all be competing against one another. Organizers agreed that the lineup of films spans a wide range of genres and themes. For instance, a documentary on gender violence in the Congo will be screened during the same time slot as an experimental fictional film about losing and finding objects.
Gelbfish, whose film will be competing, said he hopes that the feedback from the festival judges will offer new perspectives on his work.
Ben Boult ’14, who will be presenting three films at the festival, participated in his first film festival last weekend when “Cal, the Writer,” a documentary about a talented young writer diagnosed with cerebral palsy, screened at the Bethesda Film Festival. He discussed the benefits of viewing the film in such a context.
“By the time I’m watching my own films, it’s painful,” Boult said. “All I see are the littlest decisions that I made, so it’s cool to see it in a room full of people with fresh eyes.”
Boult added that the festival is a testament to the growing sense of unity within the Yale film community.
“I think that before, everyone was acting as lone wolves and collaborating when they needed to,” Boult said. “I’m thrilled that the community seems to be coming together more.”
Gelbfish said that while larger film programs like that of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts provide much larger and more varied film-related opportunities, he believes it is possible for Yale students to obtain a similar level of practical experience in film.
Gonzalez noted that the number of Yale students interested in film has grown immensely over the past several years.
“Considering the fact that, this weekend, we’ll have 20 films to show that are specifically connected to Yale, and there are currently around 14 filmmakers on campus, I think it’s safe to say that the community is growing,” he said.
The festival will also include a workshop led by Bruce Cohen ’83, the producer of the films “American Beauty” and “Silver Linings Playbook.”
Correction, March 27: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the festival judges are student filmmakers. They are, in fact, film professionals.