Film festival builds presence

The College of William and Mary’s eighth annual Global Film Festival will run Feb. 19-22 at the Kimball Theatre.

GFF began in 2008 as a celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Williamsburg Theater — renamed the Kimball Theatre in 2001. The Wendy and Emery Reves Center for International Studies and the Roy R. Charles Center are the Festival’s primary sponsors; however, more and more sponsors have contributed over time.

For the last two years, the Williamsburg Area Arts Commission has awarded the Festival a grant that has allowed GFF to grow. Recently, Canon Virginia, Inc. has also donated money to bring in more filmmakers and cameras to support film studies’ own production projects, as well as to use as prizes in the student film competition. Support from Canon Virginia, Inc. allowed the festival to launch student workshops starting in 2013 called DIY/FIY — Do-It-Young/Film-It-Yourself.

The 2008 Festival, called “A Festival of Film History,” was locally focused and only included the pre-series films in conjunction with the one-credit film class. The 2009 Festival more closely resembles what GFF is today: a global festival with a broad programming theme. Visiting assistant professor of film and media studies and Director of the William and Mary Global Film Festival Timothy Barnard has worked with the Festival since its inception and said he believes 2009 was an integral year for its development.

“We kind of started to establish some things that we remain committed to, which was bringing in filmmakers and trying to bring in filmmakers from different parts of the world, but then also we realized that we wanted to include special live performances and special parties — in between films we would have receptions,” Barnard said.

Each year the team has worked to bring in award-winning filmmakers and filmmaking teams, as well as famous actors, including Michael Cera and Jared Gilman (star of Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom”). In 2009, the festival partnered with the Earl Gregg Swem Library Media Center’s 24 Speed student film competition, in which students wrote, shot and edited a short film in 24 hours. Gilman was a guest judge for the 2013 competition.

In addition to the traditional Wednesday Pre-Festival Series — five films shown on-campus and presented by the College’s faculty — this year included a new Thursday Mug Night Series. It was comprised of four weeks of cult-classic films leading up to the 2015 GFF and also offered a deal on AleWerks beer for those using an official GFF mug. Jan Huebenthal, a second year American studies Ph.D. candidate and assistant director for GFF, expressed confidence that the Mug Night Series will become a festival program staple in the future.

“The Thursday Mug Nights were completely new this year and they were a runaway success,” Huebenthal said. “It really proved that there is a sustainable, long-standing interest among the student population for the festival, which is very neat to see.”

The biggest excitement for this year’s festival is the sneak preview of “The Hunting Ground,” slated for Friday night. Public Relations Chair for the William and Mary Global Film Festival Carlton Fleenor ’15 explained the importance of GFF screening this film.

“It’s actually the biggest thing that GFF has ever done,” Fleenor said. “This is the first post-Sundance showing of this film, which is a really, really big deal. It’s ahead of the New York and the LA premieres.”

The documentary focuses on sexual assault on college campuses, following two former University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill undergraduates as they grow from survivors to activists. Barnard first saw the film at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival and decided — even though it is not a foreign film — that it fit well with the theme of renewal because of the growth of the two women, Annie Clark and Andrea Pino.

“I was completely blown away,” Barnard said. “It was just so powerful. It’s a brilliant documentary by a brilliant documentary filmmaker, but it was also just [that] the subject really hit home, and so immediately I approached one of the distributors.”

“The Hunting Ground” is not set for a theatrical release until after the GFF; this has proved problematic for the screening permissions process. Due to the post-release plan for the film to go on a tour of college campuses and the hard work of the GFF team to convince the distributors, the College will be the first to show this documentary.

“It speaks to what we’ve become that we’re able to secure something like that, I think that’s really powerful,” Huebenthal said. “I think ‘The Hunting Ground’ is really a great example of how we’ve grown, of how we’ve been able to establish ourselves. … We’re actually the first college campus in the United States to screen this film, which is amazing.”

Not only will the College screen the film, but Clark and Pino will also attend the Festival Sunday. In addition to a question and answer session, the women will be presented with the Rising Young Talent award, which was developed in 2012 as a way to honor the actors. This award complements the Global Film Can award, which was introduced at the 2011 GFF and is presented to filmmakers or filmmaking teams who exhibit notable achievement in global film production. This year’s Global Film Can will go to Director Kirby Dick and Producer Amy Ziering for “The Hunting Ground.”


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