By Megan Cavanaugh
The fifth annual Speechless Film Festival hosted by Bethany Lutheran College gave students and community members a chance to view almost 100 short films, in 18 different genres, represented by 24 countries, in one weekend. Four filmmakers from Minneapolis agreed that this was “the most well put on film festival” they had ever been to.
There were four feature films, which ranged from 69 to 90 minutes in length, for those who are intrigued by longer developing plots. For the artful eye, there were genres such as Art, Animation and Experimental. There was even a separate Animation category, 100 percent safe for children.
Genres such as Family Matters, A Silent Homage and The Gauntlet had films that featured hard to tackle subject material. Family Matters brought about subjects such as religion, politics, tradition and family. The Gauntlet held three films tacked with labels such as “mature content,” “strong images” or “nudity and violence.” Because The Gauntlet is not for the faint of heart, each person who stayed through the entire series received a button proclaiming their success.
There were two categories of films that were strictly made in Minnesota: Minnesota Loud and Minnesota Quiet.
Other genres such as Journey, Lost, Mind Games and Short and Sweet featured shorter, lighter films.
The festival was a pleasing event for many. Junior Taylor Nordhausen got a taste of the festival in a unique way, since it was her first experience.
“I thought the festival was run very smoothly,” Nordhausen said. “Everything was laid in a well-placed manner and the flow of the event was great. Never being at the festival before, I thought the atmosphere was really awesome and the people were great too. Signing up, I didn’t think I would have as much fun as I did.”
As an audience member, she saw “Best of Show.” Her favorite was the Family Matter’s “Saïd’s Cremation” because of the “deep message” and it was something even she could relate to.
On Saturday, she sold concessions. Her favorite memory was asking people to buy a button whether they purchased something or not.
“If we saw someone we knew it’d be, ‘Hey, you want to know what would go great with your popcorn? A button,’” Nordhausen said.
“Volunteering at this event was something that I would highly recommend anyone to do whether he or she is a Media Arts major or not. This event allows you to get connected with more than just the people of your major and to see another side of a world that you never knew existed,” Nordhausen said. “Although I didn’t see very many films, I can honestly say the experience was eye opening because it made me realize how much work and effort goes into making each of the films. It was great to learn more about the event and to be a part of it.”
But it wasn’t all fun and games for some attendees. This was the case for sophomore Abigail Bitter, who was a first-time attendee, and only watched a few films due to a “migraine the loud speakers caused.”
“The videos were very poorly labeled and the descriptions were the most off based descriptions I have ever read in my life, it was awful,” Bitter said. “Also, in one of the first films I went to, the second the lights went off the couple in front of me started making out. I wasn’t sure what was worse to look at, the film on the screen or the boyfriend’s really bad technique.”
Aside from Bitter, the majority had a fabulous time. The raves and reviews about the festival are high with an expectancy for next year’s event.
There were 11 judges from throughout the community.
Professor Angie Johnson describes her judging experience as “a blast.”
“I was assigned the category of ‘shorts’ (films under 20 minutes). I cannot remember how many films I watched; I think it might have been over 100,” Johnson said. “The time commitment was steep, but the job instilled in me a kind of validation that storytelling is thriving. Without good storytelling, Aristotle warned us, society risks collapse.”
In her writing classes, Johnson stresses one must know “the rules” (i.e. the hero’s journey) of storytelling before one can break them. The directors, she said, broke storytelling rules expertly.
She gave the example of the award-winning short film, “BrainBloodVolume” by John Carter. The short tells the story of Hugo Bart Huges who drilled into his own head to see what was in there.
“Granted, the topic itself is intriguing; however, it’s how the story was told that gained my approval,” Johnson said. “While the narrative follows a traditional arc, it’s how Carter presents Huges’ ‘inside’ brain that breaks the rules of traditional narration and presents viewers with visually paradoxical images that are abstract and ground breaking. It’s a masterpiece.”
Just as judges and fans enjoyed the experience, filmmakers did too.
Paul Gall, director of “Marginalia,” had never been to a festival before, though if he had, he doubts it would compare to Speechless.
“Without being able to compare it to anything else, I can say that they set the bar very high for any other festivals we might get into,” Gall said. “Even though it’s a small and relatively young festival, it felt entirely professional. The films and filmmakers were all great. There was always something going on for filmmakers and casual attendees which was awesome.”
Because of two previously booked filmmakers failing to make it to the panel, Gall was asked to fill in on a filmmaker’s panel 10 minutes before it started. Gall said he, “felt more than comfortable because the atmosphere was so laid back and everyone was down to earth and genuinely seemed excited to be there.” And he would do it again.
He is currently working on another film, but says if he doesn’t have a film in the festival in 2018, he will make it down from Milwaukee anyway “because it’s that good.”
Speechless Film Festival: a success for many people, five years in a row.