April 24, 2019 | 63° F

N.J. Film Festival inspires students with exclusive premieres

This Friday marks the start of the Rutgers Film Co-op/New Jersey Media Arts Center Fall Film Festival, a month-long event featuring up to 17 films exclusively being premiered in New Jersey.

The festival continues to offer a unique media arts experience and culture unlike anything else in the state, as it attracts thousands of guests every year and gains plenty of support from patrons.

Past NJ Film Festivals have been praised by publications such as the Star Ledger and The New York Times and has drawn notable guests such as Martin Scorsese, Thelma Schoonmaker, Paul Morrissey and more.

The best part? It all takes place in the heart of Rutgers University on College Avenue.

“Rutgers students will get to see enlightening and inspiring films that they couldn’t see any place else in the state of New Jersey as they are all premieres,” said Albert G. Nigrin, a professor in Cinema Studies and the executive director and curator of the festival. “Not only do our audiences have the opportunity to view many independently produced films, but also the added benefit of meeting with the filmmakers, themselves and with critics, scholars and media art professionals who are invited to speak at the screenings or to hold workshops, seminars, and lectures.”

This year’s festival will also be re-screening films that were awarded in the “best” categories from the Rutgers Film Co-op’s Summer 2017 International Film Festival.

While each film is sure to be unique and creative in its own way, ranging from documentaries to short films, producer Thomas Francine hopes that his documentary “Hitchhiking With A .357 Magnum” will open the festival with a bang — no pun intended.

Shot on a smartphone and only spanning nine minutes, the documentary follows Oregon native Jeremy Bryant as he hitchhikes more than 400 miles to get to his grandfather’s funeral, disclosing to every driver who stopped to pick him up that he was carrying a gun.

Not necessarily to his surprise, virtually every driver that offered Bryant a ride still welcomed him into their cars after learning that he was armed. An avid hitchhiker himself, Francine was shocked by not only Bryant’s outspokenness, but the relaxed reactions and compassion the drivers had offered him, regardless if he was armed or not.

“I was hitchhiking in Oregon in 2010 when Jeremy offered me a ride, and I’ve been Facebook friends with him ever since,” Francine said of their relationship. “I saw that he’d been posting a series of his hitchhiking experience with a gun, and although I know Jeremy is a great person, it shocked me to see how kind people were being to him even after knowing he was carrying, which is something that might usually worry people.”

Inspired by the story that captured the kindness others are capable of, Francine began putting Bryant’s footage together himself.

In a world where people have become increasingly mistrusting of others and in an especially tense political climate, Francine hopes that Bryant’s hitchhiking story will inspire others to be more open-minded and accepting.

Despite opposing perspectives and opinions, Francine’s goal is to show viewers that people are more inherently kind than we think.

“I used to think I was open-minded before I hitchhiked, but I was wrong,” Francine said, who says he got hooked on hitchhiking after meeting people from all walks of life during his first experience catching rides. “I came to learn that the world is kinder than people realize, and while the film features a controversial subject, it only emphasized the message within Jeremy’s story.”

“Hitchhiking With A .357 Magnum” will be shown at Voorhees Hall on Friday, Sept. 15 at 7 p.m.

A full schedule and ticket pricing for the festival can be viewed at www.njfilmfest.com, and all are welcome to attend.

Clarissa Gordon

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