The William and Mary 2015 Global Film Festival took place this past weekend in the Kimball Theatre from Feb. 19 to Feb. 22. This year’s festival was the College of William and Mary’s eighth.
Each year, every film in the festival must pertain to a theme. This year’s was Film and Renewal.
The video trailer for this year’s festival exemplified how broad the theme really was, advertising stories of personal, spiritual, environmental, physical and romantic renewal.
The four-day event kicked off Thursday evening with a screening of two films featuring environmental renewal: “Trash Art Spirals” and “Elemental.”
“We were able to make [“Trash Art Spirals”] on a [Wendy and Emery] Reves Center [for International Studies] summer study abroad program using Canon cameras, all with the idea of making a film we could bring to you,” film and media studies professor and Festival Director Timothy Barnard said in his introduction of the first two films.
The documentary project followed students participating in a Galway, Ireland summer study abroad program. The students, along with Barnard and some locals, set a goal to clean a canal running through the middle of the city.
“The theme probably originates three months before [Barnard] did the Galway thing, because he knew going into Galway what he wanted to do,” Festival Student Public Relations Chair Carlton Fleenor ’15 said.
“Trash Art Spirals” followed the students as they cleaned the canal and turned the trash they cleared into reclaimed art with the help of local artists.
Irish performance artist and sculptor Noel Molloy assisted the group by creating an art piece, “The Book of Eglinton,” from some of the canal’s trash. Molloy attended the recycled reception following Thursday night’s screening of “Trash Art Spirals” and “Elemental,” along with “The Book of Eglinton,” which he donated to the Muscarelle.
“The reception [was] really about incorporating the idea of recycling and reusing things,” second year American studies Ph.D. candidate and Assistant Film Director Jan Huebenthal said.
Past receptions have been held in a large tent outside of the Kimball Theatre; however, due to inclement weather, the organizers of the festival put together a last-minute alternative.
“What was initially a setback, we now think has turned into an exciting new venue and a new space,” Barnard said. “Our first reception will be over at the Merchants Square Gallery.”
The main attraction of this year’s festival was the sneak preview of “The Hunting Ground,” screened at the Kimball Theatre Friday at 6 p.m. “The Hunting Ground,” created by Kirby Dick, highlights rape and sexual assault on college campuses. The film — which had not premiered anywhere other than Sundance Film Festival — highlights two women whose attempts to report their sexual assault experiences were ignored by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill . The film also shares stories of other victims of sexual assault on college campuses.
“We had a packed house for the Friday night screening,” said Fleenor. “There was great energy.”
The sneak preview of “The Hunting Ground” sold out. Students and other festivalgoers lined up outside the theater, waiting for staff to count the number of available seats. Seat holders were even cautioned not to get up in case it was counted empty and taken by someone waiting outside.
“The Hunting Ground” played into the overarching theme of Film and Renewal.
“It’s sort of the idea of having an existing system and you’re renewing it and infusing it with new values, trying to change a culture,” Huebenthal said.
Due to the film’s emotional content, Barnard cautioned the audience in his introduction.
“The film was really hard for me to watch,” said Barnard. “And I think you’ll understand this. It is hard for most people to watch.”
Barnard also mentioned the presence of volunteers from the Haven to the audience.
“We have student volunteers from [the] Haven who are here tonight,” said Barnard. “If anybody feels like they need to talk to somebody — feels like they need to get out of the theater — we’ve got folks here who will help you get to a safe space.”
Before screening the sneak preview, Barnard said the College had an opportunity to play a leadership role in renewing universities’ commitments to students.
“[The College] has to be part of the solution to stopping what you’re about to see,” said Barnard. “We have to be leaders and we have to confront this problem and not be the institutions that [are in the movie.]”
A reception was held immediately after the screening in the Merchants Square Gallery. Teal ribbons were distributed as symbols of sexual assault awareness, and a banner reading “We Hear You & We Are Here for You” was signed to be displayed later in the Haven.
“It’s a super traumatic film,” said Fleenor. “So we’ll watch it and then calm down. If people want to go to the next movie afterwards they won’t be terribly overwrought.”
Due to the forecasted popularity, “The Hunting Ground” had an encore viewing on Sunday afternoon in Andrews Hall. The film’s two survivors and activists Annie Clark and Andrea Pino attended the encore viewing for a question-and-answer session following the film.
The festival continued Saturday with two Canon film demonstrations: “Charlie’s Country” and “52 Tuesdays.”
“Canon has really stepped up its game, so-to-speak,” said Huebenthal. “They have gotten involved as a sponsor for the Student Short Film Competition and also as a sponsor for the Do it Young Film It Yourself workshops which happened in November.”
“Charlie’s Country,” a film centered on an Aboriginal man slightly out of place in modern Australia, showed at 6 p.m. and was followed by a live video chat with the film’s director, Rolf De Heer.
“52 Tuesdays,” follows a teenage girl and her mother transitioning from female-to-male.
Sunday’s award ceremony began with the Global Film Can award going to the director and producer of “The Hunting Ground,” Dick and Amy Ziering respectively. The Rising Young Talent Award was presented to Annie Clark and Andrea Pino.
“The Rising Young Talent Award usually goes to actors,” said Fleenor. “But since they’re activists we’re kind of twisting the definition of rising young talent to include activism. The filmmaking process itself is a big part of their activism.”
The Global Film Festival concluded Sunday with a 4 p.m. showing of “Across the Sea,” a film showcasing the renewal of love and return to home.