Some may say that making film students crack open their piggy banks for the sake of shooting 16-mm films is ludicrous (take note, kids: Shooting on film is damn expensive). And yes, the newly formed IVDV Festival was a great success, pointing out how an up-and-coming generation of filmmakers are embracing cheaper, more visually limitless digital technology.
However, at last Friday night’s Reel Loud Film Festival, there was enough pomp and ceremony both outside and inside Campbell Hall to make Oscar look over his shoulder — the committee rolled out the red carpets and lined them with cardboard celebrity cut-outs — and more than enough entertainment to warrant the $12 entry fee.
For those who don’t know, Reel Loud is a film festival that consists of student-made silent films shot on 16-mm celluloid; each film is screened with an accompanying live band providing the soundtrack.
The festival has been a major tradition here at UCSB for 17 years now, and every spring, film students wear themselves out with 6 a.m. call times, 10-hour shoots, a diet that consists primarily of store-bought muffins and lukewarm coffee and struggling with heavy equipment to complete their long-gestating projects.
The festival is almost entirely run by UCSB students, as well, who work all school-year long to coordinate and publicize the event.
Friday night began with live act Ajao warming the audience up with a few songs, and soon after, the first film to kick things off was “Natty Light Year,” an animated tale that neatly brought two staples of college life together: aliens and beer. As the film drew to a close and the live band dismantled, the next band loaded up and the next reel was loaded.
Films that were screened during the festival’s first half included “BeautyVulgarity,” a stylishly shot black and white short brimming with Hitchcockian symbolism that combined sexuality with blood-filled violence, as well as “Limb Jam,” which was pretty much a music video for an Incubus song, only the film’s fictional band played their tune on instrument-like human limbs rather than actual instruments.
“BeautyVulgarity” wasn’t the only film that visually and thematically referenced the British master of horror and suspense.
“Motel” had to be one of the creepiest offerings of the festival, following the kidnapping of a young woman walking on a beach by a disturbingly masked pyscho, who carries her off to a dimly lit, starkly furnished decripit, titular motel. The film’s abstract and dizzying insert shots added to the horror and sense of disorientation felt by the audience.
The crowd was continually entertained for the next hour or so, until one of the definite highlights of the night arrived: the hilarious and beautifully photographed “Jesus Blues.”
The tale of a guitar-clad Jesus, a homeless sax performer, an alcoholic minister, a clown and a whole load of other things that maybe weren’t so politically correct, had the audience in stitches throughout.
According to the short film’s writer, UCSB alumni Michael Weinreich, it seems as though the Bible left out a few minor details about the Big J, details which enthusiastic cinema-goers were left to contemplate during the intermission.
Following the break and a live performance from Sean McCue, director Will Denis, a second-year, brought “Toilet Paper Caper” — you can guess what that film involved — to the big screen. Again, student filmmakers delivered a definite crowd-pleaser. It seemed that comedy was definitely the way to the Reel Loud audience’s hearts.
A few more shorts and an impressive Polynesian dance act later, this year’s group of films ended on another high, thanks to what is apparently “The Greatest Porno Ever Made,” shot right here in Isla Vista by your fellow UCSB students.
Though the night consisted of far too many films to mention within the space of a single article, there were a few that stood out. Jameson Jordon’s brilliantly witty “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Jekyll,” shot in black and white, won the Committee Choice award, while fourth-year film & media studies director Max Littman’s “Jesus Blues” took away the Audience Choice and the prestigious Golden Reel Award.
An immensely enjoyable night for both viewers and filmmakers alike, it seems that film is not dead yet, at least in Santa Barbara.