Williamsburg boasted more international flair than usual this past weekend as the College of William and Mary Global Film Festival commenced. After months of planning, the free celebration of film, music, dance and culture successfully ran from Thursday, Feb. 18 through Sunday, Feb. 21.
“I think things ran smoothly, our guests enjoyed themselves, and the audiences were really excited,” Ashley Griggs ’09 said.
Griggs, who graduated in December, served as an assistant coordinator for the film festival.
The lineup of events reflected this year’s theme, “Film and Music.” The festival kicked off Thursday evening with a screening of student documentaries about global music groups in Williamsburg, and with a banquet of international foods prepared by campus groups and local restaurants.
Thursday also featured a performance of Egyptian music, dance and film by the band Zikrayat, and a Bollywood film entitled “A Match Made By God.”
“I really enjoy Middle Eastern music, and it was cool to see the belly dancers,” Erica Wickman ’11 said about the Zikrayat show.
She also attended the Bollywood film, and said she felt she gained a lot from the entire festival.
“It’s a way to see a lot of great performances and really good films for free,” Wickman said. “I’m currently studying orientalism and exoticism in music, so it was beneficial to me.”
Tim Rivenburg ’12, who enrolled in the College’s Middle Eastern Ensemble, had the opportunity to play the clarinet with Zikrayat and really enjoyed his interactions with the band members.
“They’re all professionals; they were so welcoming,” he said. “It was so cool.”
Another coordinator of the festival, Caitlin Clements ’11, echoed Rivenburg’s appreciation.
“They were so gracious. They attended each other’s events, and interacted with students,” she said.
Friday, the Kimball Theatre featured a French flair. The evening began with a wine and cheese reception, continued with a chanteuse performance featuring faculty members, and culminated with a screening of “La Vie En Rose” — an Academy Award winning film based on the life of French singer Edith Piaf.
Griggs’s favorite events of the festival, the back-to-back screenings of the Iranian film “No One Knows about Persian Cats” and the Icelandic film “Heima,” took place on Saturday.
The former movie is about Iranian musicians trying to achieve success outside of their nation, while the latter is a documentary about the homecoming tour of Icelandic band Sigur Rós.
“It was great to see the connection between the two,” Griggs said. “The main character [in “No One Knows about Persian Cats”] talked about how he would love to go to Iceland like the band Sigur Rós, and the audience broke into applause when he said that. That was kind of a pivotal moment, when everything came together really nicely.”
Clements, a film studies major and self-proclaimed classic movies buff, appreciated the recreation of the silent movie experience through the screening of director Frank Capra’s first movie, “Fultah Fisher’s Boarding House.”
“We had the film on loan from the Library of Congress, and a live piano performance to accompany it,” Clements said. “That was a phenomenal one-of-a-kind experience.”
The film festival concluded Sunday evening with a performance by the Blind Boys of Alabama, a five-time Grammy-winning gospel group founded in 1939.
The film festival’s student coordinators and attendees were enthusiastic about the event’s turnout. Several shows and screenings were sold out, and the staff at the Kimball supported the experience.
“I think it provided a really good environment for people to sit down and appreciate film together,” Griggs said. “We don’t do that so often; we watch film online or using Netflix or on our iPods. There’s something really special about watching film in a theater; there’s an energy there that is really important for the art of cinema.”
Clements expressed excitement over the Williamsburg community’s involvement in the festival.
“It’s a great chance to get students and community members interacting,” she said. “It was amazing to see all these different subsets of people sharing their impressions of these films.”
According to Rivenburg, the festival fulfilled its mission to bring international cultures to Williamsburg via film.
“It brings this cool diversity to the campus people would never normally see,” he said.