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Thursday, June 13, 2024

UC Davis Film Festival awes audiences with animations, documentaries, comedies and more

With the huge popularity of Hollywood films and the major blockbuster culture, it’s often easy to overlook the value of smaller budget films and productions. And in the case of the UC Davis Film Festival, student participants found the beauty of art in the simplicity and manipulation of video, editing, photography and cinematography on little or no budget at all.

For the first time since the film festival began in 1990, the screening of short films was divided into two nights, May 25 and 26, at the Varsity Theatre. The charming and authentic feel of the Varsity Theatre was the perfect setting for the originality of each short film. The faces each night were as consistent as the line accumulating from within the foyer to outside of the venue.

Kicking off the festival was the familiar “Empire State of Mind” music video parody, “Davis State of Mind.” It didn’t hurt the recent UCD Law graduates Alex Pacheco and Daniel Watts to see their viral video featured on the big screen one more time. Another short worth mention is Wake Up and Row, which played the music of Sigur Rós to naturalistic wide shots and dynamic angles of the athletes. Although the video felt overdrawn at some points, it was definitely a beautiful and well-made piece overall.

Perhaps the most engaging short film of the night was the piece entitled Library. The short received awards for best directing by Kyle Dickerson and original score by Kevin MacLeod. The piece featured a phantom-haunted protagonist in Shields Library. The clever shots of dark alleys and abandoned bookshelves portrayed the library as an overwhelmingly creepy place (which some students can relate to). The manipulation of color and black-and-white shots were also effective in creating a disturbing sense of space.

There is little doubt that the best submissions were saved for the second night of the festival. Whether comedy, documentary or animation, each category was carefully thought-out and produced.

La Vida Colegio by Mathew Pye was a comedic piece that captured the life of a UCD student through the style of a Latino soap opera. The dialogue is hilarious as it is apparent that the participants do not speak great Spanish. Even better, the quality of footage itself is saturated and glowing to capture the dreamy feel and melodrama of a traditional soap opera.

Documentary was a popular category in this year’s film festival. However, one in the category really stood out: Standing Compassion by Anna Hossnieh and Evan Davis.

Standing Compassion achieves what a good documentary does: it takes a story and digs deeper to find a hidden truth. In this case, the story is the familiar face on Third and C Street, David Breaux. What makes Standing Compassion especially valuable is that it serves the Davis community in understanding Breaux’s story. Davis and Hossnieh capture Breaux’s passion and gentle nature through great storytelling. The film won Best Documentary.

Finally, the biggest winner of this year’s festival was Jason Ronzani for The Trophy Collector. The short animation won Best Sound, Best Animation and Best in Show on both nights. Ronzani’s two animations, Wormiver’s Travels and The Trophy Collector, utilize stop motion cinematography to capture movement. Wormiver’s Travel features a worm which moves from grains of sand to chalk on a chalkboard to a piece of molded clay. The movement of each frame is well thought-out. Yet, there is a simplicity that Ronzani holds on to that is endearing and captivating.

The Trophy Collector, however, is nowhere near simple. The short animation reveals the complexities of achieving movement from inanimate objects. From what is assumed to be a miniature model, Ronzani moves the objects frame-by-frame to make the characters move. Everything down to the bedding fabric, the lighting, shadows, sound and chisel marks are revealed in the up-close shots, making the audience sit in awe. The amount of work and attention to detail Ronzani put in The Trophy Collector is unbelievable. The film was definitely a showstopper.

The festival received over 50 submissions this year. The Department of Theater and Dance produced the festival in association with UC Davis Technocultural Studies, co-sponsored by Film Studies and Art Studio. For more information regarding the UC Davis film festival, visit: http://theatredance.ucdavis.edu.

UYEN CAO can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.

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