Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 29
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
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Princeton Student Film and Video Festival Looking to Delight Viewers in Its Seventh Year

Dilshanie Perera

With genres as diverse as romance, comedy thrillers, and music videos, 24 short films comprise this year’s Princeton Student Film and Video Festival sponsored by the Princeton Public Library. The cinematic experience kicks off on Wednesday, July 21 at 7 p.m. in the library’s Community Room, and continues on Thursday, July 22 at 7 p.m.

The event showcasing new work from filmmakers aged 14 to 24 was curated from 95 total submissions, according to Teen Librarian Susan Conlon, the lead coordinator of the festival. The film selection committee is comprised of librarians and students, and some filmmakers themselves.

Each summer, the student movie screenings attract a standing room only crowd of young and old, and this iteration of the film festival, now in its seventh year, promises a polished and innovative collection of work looming large on the silver screen.

Princeton High School senior Alessia Arregui has a video work playing during the festival’s first day entitled Blind Painter, the images of which comprise a visually stunning whole. She said she knew the process of creating the film would involve casting a friend as the lead character, and capturing images from nature but that the “editing was almost unplanned. The placement, layering, and filter effects for the shots were where I made most of my creative decisions.”

Editing the three minute and 10 second short took about six hours, Alessia observed, explaining, “I kept revisiting earlier points in my montage and tweaking certain areas until the transitions flowed steadily and the mise-en-scène with nature were altered from reality to a satisfying extent.” What results is a painterly feel captured in video format.

Ms. Conlon said that the festival curators wanted each day of the event to end on a high note, and preferably one that provokes laughter. They’ve certainly succeeded with Case, a movie made by brothers Charlie and Warren Heller, which concludes Day One, and with Tinnitus by Tim O’Connor, which closes out the festival.

The Brothers Heller hail from Princeton, with Charlie going into his sophomore year at Bard College and Warren entering his sophomore year at Princeton High School. The duo are frequent collaborators, with the elder doing most of the writing and the younger engaging in most of the cinematography and editing.

“There aren’t usually many disagreements on stuff like that, although we both work on the story ideas and directing. So we still yell at each other a lot,” Charlie admitted. “We also have had hour-long arguments over what music to use.”

The result of those arguments is a beautifully shot and edited comedy thriller about a disgraced athlete’s interaction with an organized crime ring. The title, Case, could have multiple meanings vis-à-vis the film, the most literal of which involves the prominently featured briefcases that support the narrative.

In fact, the props are what inspired the making. Charlie said that their lead actor happened to mention that he had 20 identical wooden briefcases in his attic, “so we tried to make a movie around that. It turned out he was wrong, and he actually had 39 of them. The rest of it just sort of came together.”

With a week before the deadline for submissions, frenzied activity ensued, including triumphant “10-hour filming days and editing until dawn,” Charlie noted.

As for the coup de grâce, Tinnitus is difficult to write about without giving too much away. With a running time of just over three minutes, the short offers up a surprise, as well as imagery that stays with the viewer well after the screen fades to black. As per the blurb on the festival schedule: “Sometimes you’ve just got to get rid of that horrible buzzing in your ears.”

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