Cinema with soul
February 16, 2010
While Williamsburg may lack tourists in the month of February, it does not lack entertainment. To bring global culture to the city, the College of William and Mary will host the third annual Global Film Festival. The festival will infuse Williamsburg with a bit of international flavor. The festival, which begins this Thursday, strives to bring the College and the Williamsburg community together to appreciate films — and, this year, music — from around the world.
“The relationship between these two mediums runs very, very deep, and together they generate some of the most powerful forms of cultural expression throughout the world today,” professor Timothy Barnard said. “Bringing music into our festival has made it considerably more festive and dynamic.”
Barnard has coordinated the festival since its inception in 2008 and said that this year’s broad theme of film and music has made the festival quite different from previous years that he has worked on the film festival.
“It has helped and made things more challenging,” Barnard said. “Bringing in a nine-person music and dance troupe to perform, for example, is an entirely different logistical challenge than setting up the visit of a film actor or director.”
Developing a free film festival on a modest budget is a difficult task that requires months of planning, even without a complicated theme.
“First we studied film festivals, their history and the important role in international circuits of distribution, then we took a field trip to [Washington] D.C. to attend a festival and interview festival directors. We started planning our own consultations with local professionals to help us move forward,” Barnard said. “Then we broke students into teams responsible for the website, publicity, the program, media relations, special events, a documentary project … Since then it’s been an increasing frenzy of increasingly complicated planning, doing and logistics.”
The festival is a joint effort of Barnard and a sizable team of student interns, many of whom took the Film Festival Production class last fall with Barnard.
“I am very grateful to have the chance to have a significant impact on the festival event,” Madeline Chessman ’12 said. “This is not your average paper-pushing internship.”
Interns have been heavily involved in the planning of the festival, helping to make many of the major decisions regarding planning, events, scheduling and publicity efforts.
“One of the main ideas behind the festival is to democratize film, and the coordination process has been very democratic as well,” Chessman said. “I am a sophomore in college, and I have written film publicity copy, made arrangements for a red carpet and made business calls to Hollywood talent agencies. It’s thrilling to know that if I want something in the festival to happen, I can make it happen.”
The vetting process for films is an arduous process, according to Barnard, but with luck will result in a thoroughly enjoyable festival.
“The selection process takes place over many conversations and months of searching a range of sources as to what’s out there,” Barnard said. “This is followed by a period of determining which films are actually available, and then trying to secure filmmakers —and this year, musicians — who will be available to come to the festival … and then that all remains in flux for a frustratingly long period of time. It’s the nature of the festival and filmmaking beast, unfortunately.”
Despite challenges, Barnard and his team have managed to book a full weekend of movies, music and speakers for the festival. Each day is filled with culturally diverse events that will entertain audiences with all different interests.
“The Blind Boys of Alabama may be our biggest coup; since booking them, they’ve only become bigger and bigger celebrity presences, with a David Letterman appearance and a performance at the White House only weeks ago,” Barnard said. “[Director] Dean DeBlois coming to present his stunning film “Heima” was another real coup; we knew the film would be a big hit with William and Mary students who love Sigur Ros and we considered just showing it on its own.”
Those involved believe that this year’s festival will be diverse and interesting, featuring films ranging from modern Bollywood to silent Frank Capra films. All films will be shown at the Kimball Theatre in Merchant’s Square. “Heima,” at 9:30 p.m. Saturday, will be the first film at the theatre to ever be shown in high definition.
“The variety of films, performances and guests is positively phenomenal considering our budget,” Chessman said. “The narrative and technical quality of the films will be outstanding as well — many of the films have won notable awards.”
The Global Film Festival will kick off on Thursday night with four main events ranging from a “Worlds of Music in Williamsburg” community documentary project to a viewing of the Bollywood film “A Match Made by God.”
The festival continues on friday with a viewing of “La Vie en Rose” and “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” at 7 and 10 p.m.
All showings and events held at the Kimball will be free of charge but they do require tickets. For a full schedule of events for the festival, visit Globalfilm2010.blogs.wm.edu.