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June 28, 2022

The Hopkins Film Festival: Knives Out and animated film steal the spotlight

By SOPHIA PASALIS | April 17, 2022

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COURTESY OF SOPHIA PASALIS

The Hopkins Film Festival poster displays in a screening room of theater-goers.

The Hopkins Film Society presented Whodunnit, a screening of six famous feature-length murder mysteries and selected shorts, for the 2022 Hopkins Film Festival during the weekend of April 8 to 10. The Film Society chose the weekend’s theme as a group, deciding between other interesting theme suggestions, including “red flag” movies.

Film Society members welcomed viewers with popcorn, creating a classic movie theater environment. With movie theaters going out of fashion, it was refreshing to return to older traditions and embrace a classically enjoyable experience of cinema.

On Saturday, junior Tadeusz Sikorski delivered the opening remarks, explaining the plan for the evening. He noted that the Hopkins Film Festival had finally returned in person after having been either canceled or virtual for the past two years.

Leading up to the festival, Film Society members review submissions for the short film competition. This year they received over one hundred short film submissions, Sikorski revealed. They accepted submissions from around the world in four categories: experimental, narrative, documentary and animation.

That evening, the society first screened The Reincarnated Giant, the runner-up in the animation category. Directed by Han Yang, the short follows a dystopian society that tries to fuel the life of a giant baby. It examines themes of female exploitation, nuclear war, artificial intelligence and the dangers of blindly serving a powerful leader.

The short’s geometric animation style is extremely captivating. The opening image of a breastfeeding farm sets the tone and provides a lens for viewing the dystopian leadership depicted in the short. The sharp lines of the urban landscape and the characters’ faces contrast the giant baby’s rotund presence.

The short embodies a similar sentiment that was felt during the COVID-19 pandemic. The characters are depicted wearing hazmat suits and masks; the role of science plays a big role in the story, delving into questions about gene editing’s scary capabilities and the ability for new discoveries to be abused by people in power.

After the screening of 2019 comedy-mystery Knives Out, the society screened Genesis 2.1, runner-up for the experimental category. Directed by Ciprian Ioan Iacob, the short retold the Book of Genesis from the Old Testament. Less imaginative than The Reincarnated Giant, the film failed to examine the biblical themes in a new and creative way.

Iacob employs cool tones and heavy-handed symbolism. After witnessing her in a dream, Adam molds his ideal woman out of clay. The desired Eve figure wears a long white dress and flowers on her head, likely representing her purity. When Adam brings her to life, her flower crown disappears, sullied by the Earth.

The shorts screened on Saturday, the runner-ups in their respective categories, were still incredibly impressive works of art. The Hopkins community is lucky to be able to access such new and thought-provoking works by filmmakers across the world. The screening provided well-needed access to these global, creative forces in cinema.

Beyond the shorts, the feature films shown that night were fun to watch and bolstered the engaging theme. Knives Out, especially, is a film that continues to excite. After it ended, people in the audience agreed that they had forgotten how good the movie was. Screenings that reintroduce fan favorites are valuable, as they celebrate good art rather than new art, which are not synonymous descriptions.

Despite the general good cheer, unfortunately many of the rows remained empty. The spirit for watching films in person seemed to not draw in a huge crowd. Perhaps COVID-19 had normalized a more isolated consumption of film, leading to a prioritization of comfort over the experience of community.

Yet energy still managed to enliven the room, partially full of people watching movies with their peers. The jokes drew more laughs among people participating in social performance. Even the cinematography of the screened material seemed more impressive on a big screen in a dark room, as simple as it is to say.

The Film Society put on a great event, though it could have benefitted from a larger crowd. The students of Hopkins would be remiss if they did not attend a Hopkins Film Festival screening during their time at the University. Especially as a school known largely for STEM-related endeavors, the festival is a great outlet for students to explore a new side of their interests and access art from emerging filmmakers.

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