Film festival explores "Faces of Media"

Students sell festival tickets outside McConomy Auditorium, wearing T-shirts announcing this year's theme, "Faces of Media." (credit: Kate Groschner/Photo Editor) Students sell festival tickets outside McConomy Auditorium, wearing T-shirts announcing this year's theme, "Faces of Media." (credit: Kate Groschner/Photo Editor)

The Carnegie Mellon International Film Festival opened last Thursday at the Melwood Screening Room. Walking into the Melwood Screening Room was like walking into a room filled with small treasures: You could feel the memories of old, obscure movies screened in the past. There was a small concession stand surrounded by classic Hitchcock posters that evoked an intimate surrounding and a love for cinema. It was the perfect venue for the festival.

This year’s theme is “Faces of Media,” a central part of our everyday culture. “Each year, we try to explore a different theme that is all around us, even though we may not always be fully aware of its critical importance….Media seemed like a great direction to go in this year, as smartphones and social media are greatly impacting local and global societies,” said senior history major and festival intern Sara Faradji.

On its opening night, the film festival kicked off with world-renowned filmmaker Michel Gondry’s The We and The I. Set in the present-day Bronx, the film centers on high school students on their last day of school. However, instead of focusing on their pre-summer festivities, the film takes place on a bus with all of the students eagerly on their way back to their homes. I was expecting it to be claustrophobic and constrained, but it was instead filled with spunk and endless energy.

The film left some with mixed impressions: Was it brilliant or was it too rushed? Regardless, viewers became hooked on the characters and their stories: When the bus finally reached its last stop, it’s safe to say that everyone in the screening room was sad to see the last of the teenage passengers depart from the bus. It was like a Bronx edition of The Magic School Bus — except with more heart and the feeling that you’re actually a quiet observer on the bus rather than an audience member. Viewers were able to relate to the ways in which these teenagers connected to each other, especially in today’s media-heavy world.

You couldn’t expect anything less from Gondry, whose filmography boasts such vivid works as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Be Kind Rewind. The film did not exaggerate the use of media; rather, it melded media into each of the students’ lives. As a result, we could truly identify with and feel the impacts of media and instant communication on a personal and grand scale. That feeling was quite powerful and heightened anticipation for the upcoming films in the festival and how these films will embrace the role of the media in our world today.

After the screening of the film, there were bounties of small French delicacies such as quiche and macaroons — carefully themed after Gondry’s French nationality. There were, of course, beverages, which made for an even more entertaining night. With stomachs filling with bread, cheese, and red wine, viewers were able to enjoy some great conversations about the film, which led to an atmosphere of genuine camaraderie.

The film festival also featured Paul Goodman’s Faces of Work as a tribute to the filmmaker, world-renowned psychologist, and Carnegie Mellon professor who passed away last year. Four of Goodman’s short films will accompany seven of this year’s films that connect to the theme of media and work. Goodman made films about how media have impacted people’s work around the world. His prolific filmography inspired the directors of the festival to feature his short films before the feature-length film of the night.

Another of Goodman’s contributions was his collaborative spirit, which had definitely made its mark on the festival. “One of Goodman’s passions was to engage all parts of Carnegie Mellon, and this year we really feel that this is true,” Faradji said. Professors from various departments at Carnegie Mellon are collaborating with some of the professional filmmakers to support this year’s festival, along with professors from the University of Pittsburgh, the Art Institute, Point Park University, and Robert Morris University.

With the incredible support and collaboration from such diverse sources, the film festival has been able to organize post-screening Q & A sessions, filmmaker workshops, and even lectures corresponding to certain courses at Carnegie Mellon. Scott Hamilton and Petr Lom are two of the featured filmmakers who will be offering such workshops to the community. Faradji added that “by working with professors, we hope that students from all different schools and departments will have the opportunity to see compelling international films and learn more about global cultures. It is as though the films serve as new and fascinating course texts.”

Looking ahead, another way that the film festival is engaging the community beyond Carnegie Mellon is its Student Short Film Competition, which will screen films by rising students from all universities. To connect with this year’s theme of media, competing students must address media and their global impact.

The Carnegie Mellon International Film Festival runs through April 13 and is a great chance for students to see what experiences film and media have to offer. You can’t say no to a compelling film — or to the complimentary food and wine.