Global film festival goes super/natural
February 17, 2011
Superheroes, vampires and Glenn Close ’74 will convene at the Kimball Theater this weekend for the College of William and Mary’s annual Global Film Festival.
According to its organizers, this year’s festival — in its fourth — will expose viewers to familiar cultural phenomena through an unfamiliar lens with a “super/natural” theme.
The broad theme encompasses three of the most popular subjects typically seen in modern Hollywood: superheroes, green thinking and the paranormal As usual, everything — including food, drinks and alcohol — will be free.
“The festival is going to give us an opportunity to broaden the horizons that Hollywood usually boxes Americans into,” Alanna Wildermuth ’12, volunteer coordinator, said.
Opening night, last night, was devoted to Superheroics. The most anticipated premiere of the evening was the Indian film “The Robot,” which, according to Robyn Markarian P.h.D ’16, assistant director not the film festival, was the “Avatar” of India. It had the largest budget of any Indian movie and broke all Indian box office records. Special guest and executive producer of “The Robot” Jack Rajasekar presented the film and received an award from the festival.
Natural filmmaking will be featured Friday evening, with the French film “Home,” directed by Yann Arthus-Bertrand. Narrated by Close, the film, according to Markarian, is renowned for its breathtaking cinematography.
“Green thinking is huge in modern day culture,” Markarian said. “You might be getting sick of the green movement, but you really shouldn’t be.”
Saturday will be dedicated to the surreal. Landmark Japanese horror film “House” will make its Virginia premiere, presented by director Nobuhiko Obayashi and screenwriter Chigumi Obayashi.
“Let the Right One In,” a vampire film directed by Tomas Alfredson that has achieved critical acclaim, will highlight the supernatural Saturday evening. The film possesses the classic darkness usually portrayed in vampire movies. At midnight, the event will move into Colonial Williamsburg for a ghost tour.
“We want to show people that there are alternatives [to popular culture],” Markarian said. “They don’t have to see Twilight if they want to watch a vampire film.”
The William and Mary Wind Symphony Sunday will close the weekend with a performance Sunday. Their annual Pop’s concert will follow the super/natural theme. A performance by the William and Mary Wind Symphony will end the evening. Their annual Pop;s concert will also follow the Supernatural theme.
“This is the first time we’re collaborating with the Wind Symphony,” Thomas Schutt ’11, festival intern, said. “It should be pretty exciting because I know it has been impressive in the past, and that they do film music justice.”
Organizers said they hope the theme will resonate with viewers and help them realize that there are quality films beyond what Hollywood has to offer. The general audience is not limited to seeing large-scale movies like “The Green Hornet,” “An Inconvenient Truth,” or “Paranormal Activity” if they want to see a superhero, environmental, or horror film.
“We’re not here to challenge Hollywood,” Markarian said. “We just want to show that there are films beyond it.”
Many of those directly involved in the festival are film studies students who took the class offered by Festival Director visiting assistant professor Timothy Barnard during the fall semester.
“The class is essentially geared toward getting people involved in working on the festival,” Schutt said. “A lot of the students tend to stay with the festival and become interns.”
According to Markarian, the organization is an all-year effort, especially for Barnard, and the work yields impressive results. She has been working on the festival since August 2010.
“We’ve had the opportunity to do a lot of really great things and invite some special guests,” she said. “We’re really excited about it.”
Some of those guests include Rajasekar and both Nobuhiko and Chigumi Obayashi, who will also be presenting their respective films, “The Robot” and “House.” Other guests include environmental filmmaker Judith Helfand and Italian filmmaker Ivana Corsale.
The festival will host three parties, one for VIP guests and two for the public (for film studies students, the gatherings will allow for networking in particular.) Some, such as Wildermuth, find that the guests, and their films, directly coincide with their undergraduate studies.
“I wrote a paper on [Helfand] last year, so I’m really excited for her to come,” she said.
While the obvious opportunities for students seem to lie with those involved in film studies, Markarian makes it clear that this is not necessarily the case:
“There aren’t a lot of theaters to choose from in Williamsburg so it’s really easy to go to the Movie Tavern or New Town to see the same Hollywood movies over and over — different actor, same plot. We want people to realize that there are some great alternatives out there.”
According to Schutt, the festival should appeal to many student interests.
“Someone who is culturally minded, like an international relations major, would probably be interested in seeing all the culture,” he said. “A scary movie lover will find something they like, and then anyone interested in the environment — plus, who doesn’t love a good superhero movie? And then, of course, everything is free.”
There is a large variety of cultures represented at the festival. The films shown come from India, Spain, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Belgium, Japan, Sweden, Brazil and Iran.
For someone like Markarian, the cultural aspect and the festival is especially important. Having received her undergraduate degree from New York University, she was worried and concerned she wouldn’t find any culture in Williamsburg.
“[The festival] shows me that people are willing to have culture everywhere,” she said. “This is such a great opportunity to find things that you wouldn’t find anywhere else. And it’s not an exclusive event, we want everyone to be able to come and take something away from it.”
Organizers hope the festival, like in past years, will continue to encourage intellectual stimulation in the community.
“The movie club of Williamsburg was founded after people came to the festival and saw the things we had to offer,” Markarian said. “We showed them the varieties of movies that are available to everyone – if you’re willing to look of course.”