The Johns Hopkins Gazette: April 13, 1998
Apr. 13 1998
VOL. 27, NO. 30


First Film Festival Scheduled For Campus

Debut: Full-length features, shorts to be shown over four days

Greg Rienzy
The Gazette

Johns Hopkins Gazette Online Edition

The Oscar-laden film Titanic, with its $200 million price tag, is to some Hollywood at its best, albeit gaudiest.

However, you don't need $200 million, or even Hollywood, to make a film. Sometimes a mere $10,000, coupled with an ounce of ingenuity, can do the trick. But with theaters today filled to the brim with star-studded, big-budget movies, what becomes of all those independent, low-budget films crafted by aspiring new directors?

For some, their only outlets are the major, or not-so-major, film festivals that are held each year in cities such as New York, Toronto and Chicago.

Now, add Charm City to that list.

Baltimore will host the first-ever Johns Hopkins Film Festival from April 16 to 19, an event festival coordinators hope will become an annual occurrence. The goal of the festival, according to one of its organizers, is not only to bring back a "big time" film festival to Baltimore--once home to the now-defunct Baltimore International Film Festival--but also to provide a forum for feature-length and short films the public wouldn't otherwise see.

"Lots of these films wouldn't get a chance to get out to the public, or they just won't be distributed properly," said Gil Jawetz, the festival's director and a recent Film and Media Studies alumnus, who directed Hopkins' first film when he was a student here. "For these filmmakers, the Hopkins Film Festival offers them a chance to get some feedback and to hone their craft."

For a number of the filmmakers, this will be a first showing of their work.

The festival kicks off at 7 p.m. on April 16 at the Baltimore Museum of Art with the local premier of I Went Down, a feature-length film from Ireland that made a big splash at Sundance.

The four-day festival, sponsored by a number of Hopkins departments and the Alumni Association, will include nine feature-length films and more than 40 shorts. Screenings will be held at the Baltimore Museum of Art and on the Homewood campus at Shriver and Gilman halls. Most programs will include a feature, a selection of shorts and a post-screening discussion with the filmmaker.

The festival is free for Hopkins students, faculty and staff; $3 per show or $15 for a festival pass for the general public.

The films were selected by Jawetz and festival coordinators Teddy Chao, president of the Johns Hopkins Film Society, and Tasha Brown, coordinator of the Film and Media Studies Program.

After viewing some 90 submissions, Teddy Chao and Gil Jawetz, working with Tasha Brown of the Film and Media Studies Program, narrowed their choices to about 50.

Chao said the film committee began organizing this event in October 1997, but it wasn't until last month that they realized there was no turning back.

"Up until then, it was all groundwork to see what kind of responses we would get from the film community," said Chao, a junior double majoring in film and media studies and in computer science. "But we realized once we sent the acceptances out, we're having a festival."

The process of organizing this event began by canvassing independent production studios and "getting the word out" to the film community, Chao said. The committee also set up a Web site where interested parties could find out more about the festival and fill out an application form.

Chao said the committee received more than 90 videos of features and shorts from not only local filmmakers, but from those in Ireland, India and Vancouver. Using the Internet, he said, was an invaluable way of "tapping into the global market."

The festival will take place during Hopkins' Spring Fair, a weekend-long mixture of food, activities and events on the Homewood campus.

Piggybacking onto Spring Fair, Chao said, seemed like a good way to attract people to the film festival. Yet, he hopes people won't be in "too much a party mood" when they're watching the films.

"I honestly hope that the crowd is constructive of independent film," Chao said. "But I'm hoping the weather will be nice so that people will walk around and then decide to pop into see some of these movies."

The film I Went Down was provided by The Shooting Gallery, a New York-based production studio that has produced films such as New Jersey Drive, Laws of Gravity and the critically acclaimed Slingblade. Brandon Rosser, The Shooting Gallery's senior vice-president, graduated from Hopkins in 1990.

"I was happy to hear that Hopkins was putting on its own festival. I wish it could have happened when I was there," Rosser said.

Rosser stressed the importance of festivals for films that aren't backed by major Hollywood studios.

"For a movie like Batman, the studios can spend tens of millions on advertising. We don't have that kind of money," Rosser said. The biggest advantage of a film festival, Rosser said, is that it generates free word-of-mouth advertising. "People will talk about these films after they see them and create a buzz distributors can't ignore."

Both Jawetz and Chao hope a success this year will turn this into an annual event.

"I think the bottom line is whether the Baltimore community is large enough to have a full-scale film festival every year," Chao said.

"But if the theaters are only half packed, that's fine with me," Chao added. What's important to him is that people--no matter how many turn out--just have a good time, watching what he considers "some really great independent films."

The 1998 Johns Hopkins Film Festival

Thursday, April 16
7 p.m., Baltimore Museum of Art
I Went Down (dir: Paddy Breathnach)

A Sundance '98 favorite, this Irish film fights current trends by presenting its crime-filled tale at a laid-back pace. The story centers around Git, a young man fresh out of jail, who finds himself immediately indebted to a local mobster for reasons out of his control. In order to make restitution, Git must do the mobster just one favor: kidnap a man from a bunch of crooks.
   This film was the winner of the Jury Prize for Originality and Sincerity at the 45th San Sebastion International Film Festival.

Friday, April 17
7 p.m., Shriver Hall
The Broken Giant (dir: Estep Nagy)

The life of a young minister in a Southern church is cast into disarray by the sudden appearance of a mysterious runaway. The Broken Giant allows its character time to ponder each other's mysteries without the aggressive storytelling of many current independent films.
   The movie features John Glover (a Baltimore-raised, Tony Award-winning actor), George Dickerson (Blue Velvet), Brooke Smith (Vanya on 42nd Street) and Chris Noth (formerly of NBC's Law & Order).

9:30 p.m., Shriver Hall
Shorts program*
A diverse group of subjects, from a twisted family tale to a Southern swamp myth.

Saturday, April 18
Noon, 110 Gilman Hall
Miss India Georgia (dir: Sharon Grimberg and Daniel Friedman)

A moving documentary that follows the lives of several young women of Indian heritage preparing to enter the South Asian Beauty Pageant. Set in Georgia, the film seeks to illustrate the different levels of Americanization each subject has experienced.

3 p.m., 110 Gilman Hall
By Any Means Necessary (dir: Isaac Isitan)

The U.S. premiere of a documentary focusing on Afro-centrism and the "reparations" movement. The film was made in Canada and observes the American situation with a somewhat objective eye. It features interviews and a performance by rapper KRS-1.

5 p.m., Shriver Hall
Shorts program*

Shorts that span the human experience: 1970s disco, a Cuban prison, a World War II battlefield.

6 p.m., 110 Gilman Hall
Out of the Loop (dir: Scott Peterson)

An in-depth look at the Chicago underground music scene. this documentary features performances by the likes of Veruca Salt, Jesus Lizard, Die Warzau and Sister Machine Gun and an interview with controversial In Utero record producer Steve Albini. Notably absent are the Smashing Pumpkins, whom the director tries to track down in a Roger and Me-like subplot.

6:30 p.m., Baltimore Museum of Art
If You Lived Here You Would Be Home Now (dir: David Peterson)

A humorous, moving ramble through a unique Delaware town captures how painter Jack Lewis changed the lives of those least exposed to the arts. After meeting a variety of townspeople, including inmates at the local prison, it becomes clear to Lewis that his influence affects every aspect of life in this little town. Both the filmmaker and Lewis are scheduled to appear at the screening.

8 p.m., Shriver Hall
Eat Me! (dir. Joe Talbott)

Four single guys sharing a mortgage is a recipe for disaster in this slacker-type film made in Maryland. Problems continually mount for these fellows as they live a life of sex, drugs and cutoff notices. Filmmaker is scheduled to attend.

9:30 p.m., Baltimore Museum of Art
Wallace's Line (dir. Ken Sackheim)

It's advertised as four films in one--a documentary on island formation; a kidnapping at gunpoint; a lecture on philosophy and identity; and a roundtable discussion from a bunch of guys who get progressively drunker--but by the film's end, the viewer becomes aware these diverse subjects are actually telling us the same thing. Filmmaker scheduled to attend.

Sunday, April 19
1 p.m., Shriver Hall
A Healthy Baby Girl (dir. Judith Helfand)

In 1965, fearful of another miscarriage, Florence Helfand took a prescription drug, DES, that was supposed to increase estrogen levels and result in a healthy baby. But 25 years later, her daughter Judith, the film's director, was forced to undergo a hysterectomy due to clear-cell cancer attributed to the drug. In this touching film, Judith documents her treatment and recovery period, as well as her interaction with her family and friends. The screening will be followed by a discussion with the filmmaker on the film and socio-medical issues.

* A complete listing of shorts is available on the Web at: