August 18, 2019 | 73° F

Film Fest to offer exclusive screenings


The Rutgers Film Co-op and New Jersey Media Arts Center will kick off their biannual New Jersey Film Festival — a month-long event showcasing up to 30 independent films — this Friday.

With every film premiering exclusively in New Jersey and conveniently being screened on the College Avenue campus, the festival is an ideal cultural experience for Rutgers cinephiles craving local media arts  apart from the Rutgers Cinema. 

Carefully curated by a panel of media professionals, journalists, academics and even students, the festival puts all forms of film on center stage. From independent American projects and international features, to  traditional pieces and more experimental shorts, the festival is a well-rounded showcase of cinema.

Because of its diverse film selection and praise from established news outlets such as The Star-Ledger and The New York Times, the festival regularly draws notable figures in film. Past famed festival goers have included Martin Scorsese, Thelma Schoonmaker and Paul Morrissey, just to name a few. 

Albert G. Nigrin, a professor in the Department of Cinema Studies at Rutgers and the executive director and curator for the festival, said the Film Festival is a unique experience for students and non-students alike, as it offers hands-on, one-of-a-kind experiences unavailable at the typical movie theater. 

“Not only do our audiences have the opportunity to view many independently produced films that are being exclusively premiered in our state, they also get 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,” Nigrin said in an interview with The Daily Targum.

A variety of films are scheduled to be screened opening night, with genres ranging from thriller to animation. Written and directed by student filmmaker Tiger Ji, Nigrin predicts the feature film “Pluto” will resonate with college students due to its relatable cast and coming-of-age plot. 

The 40-minute short film tells the story of a young man who longs to visit Pluto, as he believes it is the only destination that will offer happiness. A seemingly simple plot on the surface, the story poses a lot of questions. With its ambiguous tone and surreal nature, Nigrin describes the film to have a David Lynch quality about it, although Ji credited musician Bob Dylan as his one influence when making the film.

The film can also serve as inspiration to students with dreams of a future in filmmaking, as Ji himself was a student when he created the movie and faced many obstacles as an inexperienced filmmaker. After a set designer bailed, he and his equally inexperienced producer took matters into their own hands, and Ji made the set himself with dirt, spray foam and a little paint. Described as headstrong, confident and honest by Nigrin, the filmmaker proved with “Pluto” that there’s nothing a young creative mind can’t achieve.

“I was a maniac, because at the time, I thought that if I could convince myself that making the film was a matter of life and death, then there was no way that I couldn’t do it,” Ji said. “I encourage all the people with big dreams out there to do the same.”

Another curator-suggested film that will be screened opening night is the animated film “Two Balloons,” a sweet short that tells the story of two travelers on a journey to find love. Written, directed and produced by Mark Smith of Portland, both children and adults will find the film incredibly touching, especially for being only nine minutes long. 

Other opening night features include the smart and sexy “Getting Naked,” the compelling “The Lost Village” and the engaging “Starlit,” among others. 

Whether you’re a student studying film, a film fanatic or simply looking for a new and different cultural experience, this on the Banks exclusive is one festival that shouldn’t be missed out on. 

Tickets for students are $10, and each film will be screened in Voorhees Hall off College Ave. A full film schedule and ticket pricing for the festival can be viewed at

Clarissa Gordon

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