NJ Fall Film Festival kicks off, features student films
The annual New Jersey Fall Film Festival, which opens tonight, will screen the work of filmmakers from around the world, including films from a handful of Rutgers students.
The Rutgers Film Co-Op/New Jersey Media Center is hosting their 32nd annual film festival, which received international film submissions, said Al Nigrin, the executive director and curator for the film festival.
The film festival’s competition will run from Sept. 6 to Oct. 6 on select Thursdays through Sundays and includes non-commercial documentaries, short films, experimental videos and classic renditions, Nigrin said.
According to Nigrin, the final 26 contestants whose films are being screened were vetted from a pool of 388 international applicants. Those 26 contestants’ films are screened up until Oct.6, and then other non-competing films will continue to screen until Nov. 15.
One of the 26 contestants is Jeremy Waltman, who is the creator of “Locomotive,” an independent feature film that focuses on the life decisions of the main character as he attempts to restart his band.
Waltman, a former professor from Philadelphia who now lives in Hiawassee, Georgia, said a former student of his who had never acted before plays the lead in his film. The rest of the “Locomotive” cast consists of independent actors and actresses from New York City.
“It is always fun to take the film to a new place and see the audience’s reaction,” Waltman said. “I think the film really asks the audience if they should or should not like the lead character. We try to pose a question with him.”
Another director in the film festival is Jamison LoCascio, a Montclair State University senior. His short film “Just Short of Sidekick” will screen tonight at 7 p.m., and he said the film has a message for both kids and adults.
The film is about an elementary school student and his ability to fight crime with his friend, the janitor, LoCascio said. The inspiration for his short film comes from the recent school shootings across the nation.
“I was sitting, thinking about a new film concept and the recent attacks at elementary schools seemed to be a new evil, a new theme,” LoCascio said. “I want kids to feel like they can go to school and it is safe.”
Another competitor in the film festival is Irene Geller, a Mason Gross School of the Arts senior. Her piece “Richie,” is a short film about an artist who comes to like a blond girl named Margot. As their relationship unfolds, Richie learns more about his identity than he expected, Geller said.
“In my film Richie is in love with Margot, but he seems to want her there as a kind of identity dysphoria,” Geller said. “For me it is really about ambiguity.”
The inspiration for “Richie” came from Geller’s interest in gender-related issues in recent years, though she said she wants the audience to view her film with an open mind.
“Both Richie and the audience are looking for a definitive answer, but there really isn’t one,”
she said. “It goes with our society’s gender roles…we try to fit everything into a box.”
One of the other films in the competition is a documentary by John McKelvey, from Metuchen, New Jersey. His film, titled “Rap ‘N’ Reno,” tells the story of two women’s interconnected lives. The documentary is based on the real story of Miami Bass Rapper Anquette and former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, McKelvey said.
“It is essentially this long story where their lives keep interacting with each other,” McKelvey said. “It is also really feminist. It is about two completely different women who really have to break boundaries to get where they were.”
Nigrin said the films they screen for competition go through an intense vetting process.
“In order for a film to be screened, it has to go through two levels of judging,” Nigrin said. “They get judged off of creativity, originality and performance value.”
The films are ranked from 1 to 10, with 10 being the best. The Rutgers Film Co-op/NJ Media Center is largely made up of student interns. The students participate on the panel of first-tier judging, and usually accept films that rank about a 7.5, Nigrin said.
“They get rid of about two-thirds of what is out there,” Nigrin said. “They’re usually right, but I can veto their selections. I rarely do.”
Once the first round of judging is complete, the applicants who made it go through a tougher process. The second-tier panel consists of journalists, media professionals, students and academics selected by the film fest’s committee, according to Nigrin.
“These films deserve to be seen in the regular theaters,” he said. “They’re not associated with big money, so you don’t get to see them.”
The New Jersey Film Festival will not be held during Rutgers home football games. The tickets are $10 for general admission, $9 for students and the senior citizens and $8 if the attendee joins the program.