Last weekend, Lawrence hosted the Second Annual Associated Colleges of the Midwest Film Conference and Festival. The festival “showcases the best creative and academic work from student filmmakers, screenwriters, and scholars from ACM affiliated campuses, and provides a forum for students to exchange perspectives and learn from distinguished media artists and professionals.”
In January, interested students and film scholars were invited to submit original films, scholarly papers and screenplays for review by a board of students and faculty members of Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM). Many Lawrence students were accepted, and Lawrence was chosen to be this year’s host school. This year’s festival participants were students and faculty from Beloit College, Carleton College, Coe College, Colorado College, Cornell College, Grinnell College, Luther College, Macalester College, St. Olaf College and Lawrence University.
From Friday, April 20 to Sunday, April 22, there were nonstop film festivities. Throughout the weekend, the judges gave lectures about filmmaking and film careers. The first film event was the Silent Film Screening Live Scoring by members of the Improvisation Group of Lawrence University (IGLU). Using their voices and a wide variety of musical instruments—strings, winds, percussion, electronics—they played along to the stop-motion warning about society’s disregard for nature.
On Saturday and Sunday, there were seven official film screening sessions organized by category. Each screening featured films grouped by award nominations—Social Impact Award, Cinematic Artistry Award—and by topic—current issues, college communities, mental health and the natural world. My favorite session was “Films Under Four and Experimental Works.” This screening had the highest amount of Lawrentians, and they presented some interesting and novel ideas.
At nine minutes long, junior Lily Greene’s film, “Things I Cannot Touch Because They Are Too Near,” was one of the longer films. Using spliced-together home videos recorded by her family almost twenty years ago, she created a snapshot of her family and neighborhood. My favorite thing about it was that even though it showed happy memories, it contained something barely sinister and mysterious.
Greene also created “Caboose,” a thirteen-second animation of a beautiful face in a dark muddy area—probably a caboose. That was not the only animated film; junior Jeffrey Ryan’s short, “Lost Kites and Audio Worlds,” was made in a 3D animation program that Ryan learned in just a few weeks. The film showed a character passing through alternate dimensions to catch a rogue kite.
The title of junior Ali Shuger’s film describes itself. “I talk to you about me through them (who are talking about them to someone who is talking about them to me.)” is made of videos of artists who have influenced Shuger’s artistry, such as Björk and David Bowie. The title of the film flashes onscreen in bits between clips of interviews. It was disorienting in a pleasant way.
The most emotionally moving film was senior Liam Guinan’s film, “Mary Adele.” Guinan used decades-old documentary footage of flowers from archive.org as the visual background for audio recordings of stories about a recently deceased family member. The result was a touching portrait that suggested the shared beauty of people and nature.
The ACM Film Conference and Festival was a great way to bring together filmmakers and film scholars from across the Midwest. Many Lawrence students were nominated for awards. Alumnus Finn Bjornerud ’16 won the Best of the Midwest Creative Work and the Audience Choice Award for his ten-minute film, “The Day’s Salience.” Additionally, junior Chase Montiero won an Audience Choice Award for scholarly research while alumna Hannah Ganzel ‘17 won the Best of the Midwest Scholarly Research award. Congratulations to all participants on an amazing festival weekend!