July 10, 2019

Annual Student Film Festival Explores Multiple Genres

ROMANTIC AND HUMOROUS: The film “Strings Attached” by Peri Segel is among 18 short works by aspiring high school and college-age filmmakers, at Princeton Public Library July 17 and 18.

By Anne Levin

The Princeton Student Film Festival was launched 16 years ago to give young, local students a chance to test out their filmmaking talents. Held each summer at Princeton Public Library, the festival has grown and broadened over the years, much to the delight of its founders.

“When we started, it was just a handful of local kids with a couple of weeks’ notice,” said Susan Conlon, who heads the library’s Youth Services Department. “But now, we have this great mix of genres and styles from a variety of places. This is not just a teen festival. I think anyone interested in film who attends will be blown away by how talented these young people are.”

This year’s festival is Wednesday and Thursday, July 17 and 18. Filmmakers of the 18 short works to be screened come from Montclair University, New York Institute of Technology, Rutgers University, Syracuse University, Tisch School of the Arts at NYU, School of Visual Arts, and the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, as well as Princeton University. There is even one international selection, from France.

“Probably one of the best aspects is the opportunity to hear the filmmakers answer questions after their films are screened,” said Conlon. “So not only do you get a better idea about the film itself, you get to hear about why they decided to make the film, the ups and downs of the process. It really gives an idea of how much of a collaborative process it is.”

To qualify, an entrant must be between the ages of 14 and 25. Most of this year’s participants are in college, though there are some high school students. The final selections were made from nearly 140 entries, in genres including animation, comedy, dramatic feature, documentary, experimental, romantic comedy, and personal narratives.

Conlon singled out the film Stacy, about a student caught cheating. “On the one hand, it’s about somebody who decides to cheat on an exam. But the other part of the film is all of the boundaries people have crossed with her,” she said. Another film that caught Conlon’s interest is Strength in Numbers, a documentary and personal narrative about a young man’s loss of his father. “It’s about how a family came together, a really nice work,” she said.

Different this year is a multi-episode series called Strings Attached. The festival will screen its five short pieces. “This is a comedy romance, but it has some serious aspects to it,” said Conlon. “It has a great script, and hits its target really well. And it’s something new for us.”

Among the returning filmmakers is James Tralie, who just graduated from Princeton University and has contributed the film, Seismology. “He is taking a job at NASA, which is great,” said Conlon. “He has this wonderful, artful way of working on film with scientific data.”

Other films that impressed Conlon include Prom Queens by Talia Zinder, Megan Massey and Cory Souto; and an animation comedy by Nick Fulfaro called Winter Vampire/Summer Humans.

“There is a great range in this festival,” Conlon said. “It’s a lot more than a bunch of films by kids. These people have spent weeks and months working on the films. They have actors and scripts. This is really good work.”

An after-party follows each night’s screenings and question-and-answer sessions, with refreshments provided by the bent spoon. Admission is free. Visit www.princetonlibrary.org for more information.