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Davis, California

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

19th Annual Film Fest @ UC Davis

A review of the night’s best student creations

Davis hosted the 19th annual film festival at Davis Varsity Theatre on May 8 and 9. The festival featured student-produced films, accepting 32 of the 91 entries. The short films, each less than 10 minutes long, featured live-action, animation, photography and more.

Going into the festival, I expected a much different experience than the one I received. Expecting all film festivals to only feature obscure films, I was prepared to be confused. But I left pleasantly surprised with an empty popcorn bucket.

At the end of the festival, audiences voted for the best film of the night. I also anticipated being able to easily rate the films from one through 17, with 17 being the worst. Considering a couple of the directors brought their family and friends, this was more of a popularity contest. However, it gave the audience a chance to connect with the directors, a nice change from big-budget box office movies. Unable to rank all of the films, I’ve decided to name my favorites from the Thursday night premiere.

“The Marathon Runner” by Kevin Nguyen

“The Marathon Runner” hit home because it accurately represented my life in college. I don’t know if that’s what Nguyen wanted with his film, but that’s where it took me. It featured a marathon runner running across the galaxy towards something unseen by the viewer. Between the runner’s moments of traversing this galaxy, the film cut to motivational phrases set on a blank background. The sentences told the marathon runner to dig, to push a little further, almost there, catch your breath, break’s over.

From personal experience, I feel like life is constantly on the go. I plan my days two weeks in advance. Around midterm season, it is physically harder to breathe and academia becomes a marathon. And man, do I hate running.

“You Waited Smiling, For This?” by Meghan Shields

When I was taking notes in the pitch black theatre, I tried to rate the movies on a scale of how many times they made me laugh. But I didn’t think I was going to watch a five-minute film that made me cry. This film is a spoken word film. Classic images of nature filled the screen as a woman described her life and how she felt along the way.

The film was relatable. My roommate turned to me a few times to express her understanding. The poem spoke to depression and loneliness. The juxtaposition of the harsh reality of her words and the breathtaking backgrounds filled me with awe.

There was a moment in the film describing someone crying. The person would cry and would be comforted by hundreds of people. And even though they didn’t understand her pain, their love for her was what mattered.

“Better Together” by Simon Santos, JP De Leon, Jasmina Davis and Michelle DeMoss

Better Together” is a charming film about friends who were secretly in love with each other. It began with one friend criticizing the other’s love life. It is one of those quirky films that make you smile from beginning to end. Although simple, this film was worth a mention.

“123 Eyes On Me” by Naveen Bhat

This animated film was about a Youtuber doing an unboxing video per his fans’ request. It was the mystery box challenge, which is essentially a taboo challenge in which Youtubers  order a “mystery box” off the dark web and open it in front of the camera.

The film had quite a few funny moments in it. But it quickly took a dark turn when the Youtuber connected a USB drive to his laptop and realized that people from the dark web had been watching him this whole time. This film was a nice break from the usual hard-hitting and often confusing films. It reflected the scandals that individuals are willing to go through in order to gain fame, yet maintained a playful mood, even when the main character was about to be murdered.

“Black Nursery Rhyme” by Iran Martinez, Cameron Lippert, Jamie Barrario

When I saw the title, I immediately thought this film would have something to do with death. Nursery rhymes often depict gruesome tales, but this film did the exact opposite. It took the gruesome truth of the racist society in which we live and turned them into children’s nursery rhymes.

The nursery rhyme “The Three Blind Mice” refers to three noblemen who plotted to kill Queen Mary. When they were convicted of their crimes, they were sentenced to death and Mary had them burned alive at the stake. In this film, the three blind mice were “three blind whites,” policemen clouded by institutional racism.

The nursery song “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” transforms into one about children. The rhyme mentions the “itsy bitsy child walked up the wrong street,” an allusion to children of color walking into predominantly white neighborhoods. The film cut to videos of police beatings and vigils held for black boys who were killed at the hands of unpunished police brutality.

This film was my favorite. It disrupted the flow of comedy and love that other films portrayed, which was needed. Society needs to be reminded of its flaws, even during a film festival in a small college town.

“Storm Chaser” by Caitlyn Sampley

Although I did not understand what this animated film was about, I loved it. It was beautiful and the most visually pleasing film. It had a dystopian vibe, and I found myself comparing the movie to the book character June from “Legend.” The skyscrapers looked as though a comic book came to life. I was breathless.

“Project Casper” by Victor Yu

Project Casper,” the final film of the night, was perhaps the most thoughtful. It starts with a girl at a party, drinking her worries away when she meets someone dressed as a ghost. The ghost is wearing a simple white sheet with a smiley face drawn on its head. As the night goes on, the girl gets closer to the ghost and after dancing she wants to know who is under the sheet. By the end of the night, the girl is finally able to catch up to the ghost and she pulls down the sheet only to discover another girl. This shocked the audience and everyone gasped at the same time. But the two girls held hands and their eyes rose to meet each other and I only had one word to describe this film: aww.

Written By: Itzelth Gamboa — arts@theaggie.org


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