Annual Film Festival features romance across genres

By AUBREY ALMANZA | February 20, 2014

Last week, the Hopkins Film Festival celebrated its 19th year of annual screenings. The four-day festival spanned Feb. 13 through Feb. 16 and featured a fitting Valentines Day collection. The events — free to Hopkins students and affiliates — were conveniently held in Shriver Hall.

“We [Hopkins Film Society] receive submissions from around the country and around the world,” Kevin Joyce, a member of the Film Society, said. “We give bunches of submissions to various Film Society members, who screen them individually and come back with the best. . .from their respective bunches. These selected films are then screened by the group during a number of viewing sessions until the final films have been chosen.”

Over time, the Film Society brainstorms ways to improve attendance and community satisfaction. “Our goal every year is to find more creative ways to get the word out and advertise the Fest,” Joyce said.

“This year, since one of the days of the Fest fell on Valentine’s Day, the executive board of Film Society really stepped up their promotional game and had a number of love-themed posters put up around Baltimore. Slogans like “Our Love is Reel” and “My Heart Beats at 24 Frames a Second” were plastered all around Charm City.”

Friday’s featured films all presented romantic storylines but spanned multiple genres, with The 25,000 Mile Love Story kick-starting the cinematic afternoon. The 2013 production documents the story of Swiss runner Serge Roetheli, as he runs 25,000 miles around the globe to raise money and awareness for impoverished children.

Accompanied by his wife, Roetheli repeatedly escapes death in the form of jungle attacks, civil wars, malaria and hostile foreigners. Though incessant hardship increases as his sponsor pulled halfway through the trip and the threat of water-borne illness persists, Roetheli’s brave wife helps him persevere for their cause. The inspirational endurance athlete won the highest accolades from The Rome International Film Festival, Red Rock Film Festival, Moondance International and The People’s Film Festival of New York, among others.

Three documentaries followed suit, transitioning from conventional romance to less prevalent expressions of love. Wheelchair Diaries: One Step Up strikes a human chord shedding light on the too often disregarded value of disabled Europeans. Lady Urmia explores love of the environment, as narrated by a drying lake Northwest of Iran. Wild Blue portrays the often unpredictable journey to grow to love one’s self.

The 1967 classic Bonnie and Clyde screened at eight and drew the largest crowd. Set in the Mid-West during the depression, Bonnie and Clyde depicts a small-town couple that abandons their mundane positions to conduct a series of lucrative bank robberies. The landmark film — ridden with illegal activity, sex and violence — continues to entertain audiences of every generation.

Buffalo ’66, a fairly twisted romance, concluded the series of Valentines Day screenings. Vincent Gallo directed and debuted in the 1998 production, in which Billy Brown, a falsely imprisoned man, kidnaps a young tap dancer and forces her to act as his wife. Their deranged, whirlwind relationship addresses Brown’s depression and loneliness as he seeks revenge on the true criminal.

Saturday’s all-day lineup began at 11 in the morning and continued until midnight. Antarctica: A Year on Ice proved to be a festival highlight and captivated nature documentary enthusiasts. New Zealand native Anthony B. Powell filmed the everyday happenings of two Ross Island research bases. Viewers were taken behind the scenes of the continent’s scientific research, as Powell interviewed the cooks, firemen, storekeepers and helicopter pilots that work with all hands on deck to make the grand scheme possible.

The film fully displayed Antarctica’s fascinating seasonal dichotomy. During the summer season (spanning October through February), the sun shines 24 hours a day, while the long winter (February to October) is characterized by permanent darkness. Powell even touched on the concerning issue of Polar T3 syndrome: a reduction in the T3 thyroid hormone resulting in depression, fatigue, memory loss and even fugue state. This threat, amongst countless others, constantly threatens the Antarctic inhabitants.

Feb. 15 also featured Plato’s Reality Machine, a 2013 production about Charles, a New Yorker who escapes reality through dangerous video game missions. Soon, the boundaries between the real and virtual worlds begin to blur, and Charles’s quests take a dangerous turn.

In addition to Saturday’s animation shorts and experimental films, the Film Society chose to screen Purple Rain starring Prince as “The Kid.” Prince’s character is a troubled but dedicated musician who escapes his acrimonious home life by incessantly rehearsing. The aspiring rock star must fend stage competitors and balance band tension.

The Johns Hopkins Film Festival came to an end Feb. 16 with a showing of the 1928 silent comedy The Cameraman. Legend Buster Keaton not only produced and helped direct the film, but he also stars as the leading character, a nervous New York City photographer. Upon developing romantic feelings for an MGM secretary named Sally, Buster attempts to work as an MGM cameraman. Although repeatedly heartbroken by Sally’s relationship with Harold, the cameraman prevails in the end.

The labors of The Johns Hopkins’s Film Society — particularly the countless hours dedicated by co-directors Abby Harri and Ian McMurary alongside Film Fest Coordinator Joshua Land — undoubtedly paid off. The highly selective process resulted in a diverse but fluid lineup that entertained audiences of all ages and satisfied all genre preferences. The Hopkins community certainly anticipates next year’s milestone 20th annual Film Festival.

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