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NJ Film Festival features inspiring, different independent films

This semester’s beloved New Jersey Film Festival, a tribute to indie films, began on Saturday Jan. 25, with carefully selected opening films “Textile Workers” and “Work Songs.” 

One may assume that the films chosen were related to one another, seeing that their names both involve work. But, on the surface, the films shared almost nothing in common in plot or form. 

“Textile Workers” is a film by Andrea Nappi and Juno Roome, film makers that met at The New School in New York City. The film involved an enchanting journey between a tantalizing fairy-like girl and a wayward traveler. The most significant part of the film, and why I feel it was selected for the festival, was because of the intricate drawings Nappi created. 

Although I’m no expert on film, I can say that I’ve truly never seen anything like “Textile Workers.” The amazing illustrations on each piece of film was mesmerizing. 

Just like the distracted and mysterious character in the film, director Roome was one of the most interesting individuals I’ve ever met. When asked what his major was, he went on a rant about how he used to tell people he was a detective, and seemed almost disappointed and hurt when I brought him back to reality. The magic behind the film can’t be understood without experiencing the magic of one of its directors.

Nappi was just as pleasant as her partner, wearing a color of green one doesn’t see very often, paired with large, bright and different colored earrings. She explained how the film was shot on 16mm film, and then how they had to get a few prints of the film made in order for Nappi to illustrate on each 16mm “frame by frame,” using interesting tools like nail polish. 

Perhaps the plot went right over my head, but more than anything, it felt like the film was a fun and entertaining attempt to work with an uncommon medium. 

The film “Work Songs” is a documentary on the various forms of labor across the country. In an almost Marxist approach to viewing work, film maker Mark Street approaches jobs in an entirely different way than one would think. Although work is a necessary part of our existence, it feels like the jobs we do daily are often dismissed or not looked at carefully. 

It didn’t take a film expert to see how important labor meant to director Street. The careful attention that Street took to portray each job he chose to examine showed just how much labor meant to him. Work makes us who we are. 

“You hesitate to dictate what an audience should feel,” Street said. “But to me, the soft themes of the film are automization, and how that’s changed, technology and how it’s alienated us from each other and the decline of the unions.” 

These two films, juxtaposed with one another, proved to be an interesting viewing for the viewer, which is why I think the festival did such a great job with film selection. 

The New Jersey Film Festival is a confluence of film lovers, film makers and film appreciators. Seated in the crowd were individuals of all different ages, regardless of background, coming together to share their love for an art form. 

After the screening of the two movies, the directors, an awkward group of individuals, stood before the crowd. It was almost ironic to notice the differences and similarities between the individuals’ appearances and mannerisms almost directly reflected in their films as well. It took a careful eye to notice the similarities between the directors’ characters.

Speaking to all three film makers, I was reminded of how important it is to support new ideas and independent art forms. These vastly different characters dedicated their resources and time to their craft. It felt almost like a small act of resistance: to create what they felt was necessary in the age of media conglomerates. 

The individual that oversees the festival, Albert Nigrin, teaches cinema studies at Rutgers University. His unwavering love for indie film making is reflected in the careful organization of the event and his joy when speaking to the film makers. 

Nigrin highlighted just how tedious the decision-making surrounding the festival really is, arguing that the festival is almost as selective as the Sundance Film Festival, a popular showcase of film in Utah. 

Knowing almost nothing about film isn’t a problem. Going to the festival merely to see something you’ve never seen before is reason enough to dedicate your evening to the wonderful cause. 

The New Jersey Film Festival continues until the end of February, with a variety of selected films from across the world. 

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