Hats off to Lillian Nicklesen, Sara Weitz and Carl Lindner for producing a quality show that ran smoothly and on time more so than any previous year I’ve attended.

Several key things stood out to me about the films and the event this year. The musical scores were far and above the standard shitty rock bands that plagued most reel loud films of past years. “Modern Day Hunter,” about a man who hunts using his car, featured a ragtime piano player who competed with Nekrogoblikon, a death metal band, hilariously contrasting with each other. “Women,” a beautifully photographed avant-garde film about the female experience, featured a delirious and frightening score of violins.

“La Mariachera,” a tale of a young female folklórico singer who falls in love with a dancer, won the best musical score award for the acquisition of the wonderful local mariachi band, Mariachi Integral. Even the disappointing “Chucks,” about the love life of shoes, featured local darlings Watercolor Paintings performing a delicious medley of some of their newest tunes.

Another feature of this year’s Reel Loud Film Festival was the sheer diversity of locales, places, times and people. One moment we were witness to a conspiracy against a young Russian filmmaker in the tragic and haunting “Edik’s Eyes,” the next we were traveling further back in time to a hilariously anachronistic early America in “Assassinating Abraham Lincoln” before going way far back to “1410” in China where two lovers collide. (They literally had a sword fight on stage in Campbell Hall!) We went from joining BFA actor Paul McCormick inside the belly of a beautiful girl in Ainara Aparici’s magnificent “Hungry Love” to following the exploits of a deranged and ahead-of-its-time “Modern Day Hunter,” courtesy of Woo Lovinger, Annie Wilkes, Heather O’Brien and Kelsey Brannan.

At two points we were dropped in to the rich colorful worlds of Latin America in “La Mariachera” and the dance troupe Raices de mi Tierra. Finally by the end of the night Matthew Hoffman showed us “21 Days In Dominica,” a hypnotic ride through the country no less intensified by the solo drumming of Ngoki.

I will remember this Reel Loud for the variety of films, musical acts and filmmakers so prominently featured. Unlike previous years there was no clear winner of the night, but it was never meant to be a competition. If anything the night belonged to the up-and-comers, the former production assistants and interns, my friends who I’ve collaborated with in the past. It truly was a joy to see Matthew ‘Ace’ Palanca win the Golden Reel (Judge’s Choice) for “The Lovesick Zombie,” a simple but humorous and heart-warming tale about a zombie who falls in love with a human girl, and quite a pleasure to see Melissa Perez’s “La Mariachera” win for best score.

“Mustache Maria’s” claiming of the Audience Award felt like such a cathartic experience. I couldn’t even imagine how director Alexandra Tengco and star Sarah Cho must have felt when they walked on stage to receive the award. It had been a long arduous road for them and their crew; after being rejected from last year’s festival they decided to finish it anyway. I think they can safely say that finishing it was a great idea. It’s a beautiful film, a strangely timeless tale about a girl who tries to find love and acceptance for her and her mustache.

The evening wrapped on a high note when famed comic artist and UCSB alumnus Kazu Kibuishi received the recently resurrected Inspirational Alumni Award. Things got even better when the Reel Loud committee gave a second Inspirational Alumni Award to the Film & Media Studies Dept. advisor Joe Palladino. Apparently the committee had kept this a complete secret, but if anyone reading this knows Joe Palladino, we all can safely say there is no man greater than he. He truly loves his students and we all deeply love him back.

I must give a plug to the local Isla Vista band Other Nature. My worries about seeing another shitty white reggae band (I’m looking at you, Rebelution!) were aggressively dashed as they jammed the hell out of Campbell Hall. It is almost a death sentence to ask audiences to get up and dance, but they got an impressive number to come up and share in the Isla Vista vibes. They were the perfect band to take us home after the world and time spanning travels of the films that evening.

Fears of the economic recession dampening the quality of the work quickly evaporated for me during the 18th Annual Reel Loud Film Festival, because the greatest works that evening were films that told simple stories and told them well. High production values and lots of money are no guarantee for success and everyone should be inspired by the quality of effort and execution by our most talented batch of artists yet.