NJ Film Festival brings indie culture to Rutgers
The New Jersey Film Festival for the Spring 2019 semester begins today. For the next three weeks, independent films will play almost every night at Voorhees Hall on College Avenue.
The festival is run through the Rutgers Film Co-op, the New Jersey Media Arts Center and the Rutgers University Program in Cinema Studies.
Albert Nigrin, the executive director and curator of the New Jersey Film Festival and professor at the program in Cinema Studies, said the 22 films showcased have gone through a two-tiered jury process. Jurors are past winners, Rutgers faculty members, students and journalists.
Fran Magen, a manager of the festival, said interns look though the films submitted to pick the ones that move on from the first round. This year, the festival received 560 entries from around the world, then the judges narrowed the submissions down to approximately 150 for the second-tier jury.
“We are looking for good films that are original and creative,” Nigrin said. “It does not have to look slick.”
The films come from many genres — they can be animated, documentaries, experimental, short films or feature films. The festival shows films that are not always seen by movie-goers, especially the “super 8s,” which are shot on the vintage 8-millimeter film format. During the festival’s nightly showings, there will typically be a few short films and a feature film presented to the audience. Many of the filmmakers from the night’s showings will be available with a question and answer segment with the audience afterward.
Some of the films Nigrin is interested in seeing include a film called “Diary of Rooftop Water Towers,” a feature film showing more than 200 shots of all the water towers in New York City. The filmmaker, Nobuyuki Asai, considers it a series of haikus. It took him 16 years to make.
Nigrin also expressed interest in the film "Mimi Vang Olsen: Pet Portraitist." It is about an artist who lives in Greenwich Village, N.Y. and immortalizes the lives of her clients and her pets.
Another one of the films showing this semester is one by Rutgers alumni Zachary Morrison. The film, "Everything's Fine: A Panic Attack in D Major," is a musical that begins on campus and follows a woman going through a mid-20s crisis.
Although films can be from all over the world, judges try to pick New Jersey and student-centric films, Magen said.
At the end of the festival, the winners are announced. The winners are given awards for the best of their category. The festival also awards honorable mentions for films that did not win but were considered notable by the jurors.
Films shown in past semesters have gone on to cinemas and art houses in New York City. Filmmakers have the chance to advance their films to a wider audience by showing their films at the festival, as many in attendance are from the outside community, Magen said.
"The festival is truly indie, with a lot of low-budget films," she said. “There is always something for everyone."
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