The Johns Hopkins Gazette: April 8, 2002
April 8, 2002
VOL. 31, NO. 29


Indies Exposure: Film Fest to Screen 75 Big and Small Works

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette
Johns Hopkins Gazette Online Edition

Virginia Lee might be too young to remember The Gong Show, but she certainly understands the concept: How long can someone watch an amateur, and often bizarre, act before it needs to be put out of its misery?

Since September, Lee, a junior in the Writing Seminars, has been living her own version of the cult 1970s variety/game show. In Lee's world, however, the celebrity panel, padded mallet and golden gong have been replaced by a handful of fellow students, a VCR and a remote control.

Virginia Lee, Jason Shahinfar, Jon Groce and Adam Lareau are among the 2002 Johns Hopkins Film Festival committee members who decided which of the nearly 130 submissions made the final cut. Their 75 favorites will be shown over four days in Homewood and East Baltimore venues.

As a member of the 2002 Johns Hopkins Film Festival committee, Lee had a portion of the responsibility in deciding which of this year's nearly 130 submissions made the final cut. For every one gem received, Lee says, there would invariably be two "not so stellar" offerings. As an example, Lee remarks about one film that started off as a Lifetime Channel-like drama about a middle-aged woman and then abruptly and inexplicably transformed into a dark comedy in which the lead character slices off someone's ears. The aforementioned film, Lee says, will not be part of this year's festival.

"We basically said when we were screening films that if we ourselves can't sit through it for more than five minutes, then we are turning it off and rejecting it," says Lee, the event's publicity chair. "We tried to accept things that are not going to waste anyone's time, hopefully."

So, screened for your viewing pleasure, the Johns Hopkins Film Festival returns to Baltimore this week.

The fifth annual festival kicks off at 8 p.m., Thursday, April 11, with a presentation of waydowntown, a comedy about four young office workers who bet a month's salary to see who can stay indoors the longest.

An outlet for independent and often financially challenged films, the four-day event this year will include 15 features and more than 60 short and long-short films. Screenings will be held at Shriver and Gilman halls on the Homewood campus and in Mountcastle Auditorium on the East Baltimore campus. Displayed formats are 8mm, 16 mm, 35 mm and VHS. The majority of films will be shown in Shriver, the largest screening facility in Maryland.

The Johns Hopkins Film Society started the festival in 1998 to provide a forum for feature-length and short films that the public wouldn't otherwise see. This year's program features award winners from other festivals, such as Slamdance and the New York Underground Film Festival, in addition to independent creations from local, national and international filmmakers. In keeping with tradition, the fest also will screen a cult classic, which this year will be Dog Day Afternoon, the 1975 film starring Al Pacino.

Integrated into the JH Film Festival will be the Mideast Film Series Frontiers of Dreams and Fears: New Cinema from Iran and the Middle East, a new series co-sponsored by the JHMI Office of Cultural Affairs and the Johns Hopkins Middle Eastern Student Associations.

Jason Shahinfar, the event's director, says that more so than in previous years, the 2002 festival is highlighting the works of young filmmakers, including the first annual Student Filmmaker Showcase, comprised of mostly Hopkins undergraduate productions.

"We definitely have a soft spot for student filmmakers," says Shahinfar, a junior majoring in biology and film and media studies. "We'll be showing works from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, Swarthmore, Skidmore, and we got a lot of stuff from USC and UCLA."

For both Lee and Shahinfar, the festival is about promoting films that are far afield from the glossy, big-budget Hollywood fare.

Shahinfar's personal favorite is Hacks, a fake documentary in the same vein as This Is Spinal Tape, about a group of talentless stand-up comics heading to a festival in upstate New York. This same Northeast setting is the backdrop for the more serious Standing by Yourself, an award-winning documentary about a small group of teens wasting away in their hometown.

Lee says that in organizing the festival's schedule the committee endeavored to cater to all tastes.

"We'll also be showing some experimental films that get a bit on the wild side," Lee says. "But we just love those."

Admission to all screenings is free for Hopkins students, staff and faculty with ID. Tickets for others are $3 per show (though some are free), $5 for a day pass and $15 for a festival pass.

Film Fest 2002 is funded by Hopkins' Student Activities Commission, the Debate Team, Johns Hopkins Middle Eastern Student Associations, HSA Programming Committee, JHMI Office of Cultural Affairs and the festival's submission fees.

For more information, go to or call Jason Shahinfar at 410-235-4636.

Hopkins Film Festival 2002

The fifth annual showcase for independent, student and local filmmakers will take place over four days at the Homewood and East Baltimore campuses. Some screenings are free to the public; others are $3 for single admission; $5, day pass; $15, festival pass. All films are free for Hopkins affiliates with ID. Below is a schedule of screenings, two of which will run more than once. For more information about tickets and films, call 410-235-4636.

Thursday, April 11

Shriver Hall, Homewood

8 p.m. waydowntown, directed by Gary Burns. A comedy about a group of young employees who bet a month's salary on who can stay indoors the longest.

10 p.m. Dog Day Afternoon, directed by Sidney Lumet and starring Al Pacino. The 1975 film based on a true story about a bank robbery gone wrong and the subsequent media circus surrounding the story.

Friday, April 12

Shriver Hall, Homewood

5 p.m. Our Nation: A Korean Punk Rock Community, directed by Timothy Tangherlini. A documentary about the punk rock scene in South Korea.

6 p.m. Under Your Skin, various directors. A program of dramatic short films that deal with issues of rape, death, dysfunctional families and the attempted Reagan assassination. Also shown Saturday at 1 p.m.

8 p.m. Thank You for the Rubbish, directed by Iain Jones. A documentary about a man who makes his living rooting through law firms' trash bins and exploiting people with their dirty little secrets.

9:30 p.m. Hacks, directed by Glenn Rockowitz. A fake documentary about a group of stand-up comics taking a trip to a festival in upstate New York. Director and cast will be in attendance.

Mountcastle Auditorium, 725 N. Wolfe St., East Baltimore

7:15 p.m. Smell of Camphor, Fragrance of Jasmine, directed by Bahman Farmanara. A dark comedy about death and the meaning of life.

9:15 p.m. Djomeh, directed by Hassan Yektapanah. The deceptively simple story of a young man from Afghanistan who encounters prejudice while working in the remote mountains of Iran.

Saturday, April 13

110 Gilman Hall, Homewood

3 p.m. All Night Thing, directed by Dave Thomas, a Hopkins undergraduate. A comedy about a group of students on the Hopkins campus and what happens to them over the course of one night.

5 p.m. Got It in the Face, various directors. A program of experimental short films that push the boundaries of narrative and break the rules of storytelling. Also shown Sunday at 4 p.m.

Shriver Hall, Homewood

1 p.m. Under Your Skin. See Friday, 6 p.m.

3 p.m. Student Filmmaker Showcase. A show of mostly Hopkins student productions. Free.

6 p.m. Standing By Yourself, directed by Josh Koury. A brilliant documentary about a small group of teens wasting away in upstate New York. Filmmaker will be in attendance.

8 p.m. Shrapnels in Peace, directed by Ali Shah Hatami. A film about childhood friends, Jomeh and Abood, who support their families by collecting and selling scrap metal retrieved from the wasteland.

10 p.m. George Washington, directed by David Gordon Green. A beautiful, slow-moving film about a group of young kids in a small, depressing town in the South who band together to cover up a tragic mistake.

Midnight. Tokyorama. A program of humorous short films.

Mountcastle Auditorium, 725 N. Wolfe St., East Baltimore

2 p.m. Frontiers of Dreams and Fears, directed by Mai Masri. This film captures the delicate online friendship between two Palestinian girls: Mona, who lives in a Beirut refugee camp, and Manar, a resident of Bethlehem's Al-Dheisha camp.

4 p.m. Broken Wings, directed by Yousef Malouf. Lebanese artist/poet Khalil Gibran describes his youthful passion for his first love.

Sunday, April 14

110 Gilman Hall, Homewood

1 p.m. Gaza Strip, directed by James Longley. A documentary that delivers an unflinching look into the lives of children, widows, seniors and orphans living in Gaza.

3 p.m. Cartoonation, various directors. Some of the best underground animation, from claymation to cel animation to computer animation to rotoscope.

4 p.m. Got It in the Face. See Saturday, 5 p.m.

8 p.m. Closing night film: At Home and Asea, directed by Mark Street. The film follows five people as they try to piece together their lives in Baltimore.