Film & Media Studies News

Calling on Visionary Filmmakers:  Hopkins Film Fest 2014

by Abby Harri, Class of 2014

Film Society members posing with 35MM film prints post-festival.

Planning any four-day event is a challenge, but when you’re doing it for nine months the event can truly become your “baby.”  With a double dose of snow days on February 13th and 14th, a cancelled opening night screening, and the general homebody mentality that can result from winter weather in Baltimore, the Film Society had to put up a major fight for its blessed event, the 2014 Johns Hopkins Film Festival.

We don’t know what our attendance could have been sans snow (we try not to think about it), but despite the obstacles, I’d say we had our best festival yet.  Whatever the losses at some screenings, we had higher attendance for our submission showcase than I’ve ever seen, and also the strongest slate of films. This is especially rewarding considering that a major goal this year was to highlight emerging filmmakers in our new program, New Classics: the Auteurs of Tomorrow.

In fact, I think the re-envisioning of the festival to emphasize unknowns is what drew the strong submissions. We gave artists a chance to introduce themselves and their work to the world. As stated in our call, we sought twenty projects by “fledgling yet visionary filmmakers.” Each filmmaker was profiled in our program, as well as online, and their artistic statements were considered in the selection process.  On our site we made our credo clear:  "We believe that independent filmmakers come with a story and path of their own, and that the public craves new talent . . We're ready to connect a new generation of filmmaker with a new generation of audience . . We're ready to transform the Johns Hopkins Film Festival into an especially refreshing cinematic experience.”

Also integral to that “refreshing experience” was the pleasure of projecting four 35MM films, a treat for a single weekend (the Film Society typically offers monthly 35MM screenings), and a treat generally due to the dying distribution of 35MM. Our films were programmed to fit under an umbrella “love” theme to coincide with Valentine’s Day.  The double bill of Bonnie and Clyde and Buffalo ’66 proved an interesting pairing of not-so-perfect-couples on the run.  

Saturday was our party night, our cult-classic blowout, one of my favorites of the festival. This year we showed Purple Rain, and while Prince did his thing, we prepared a little surprise: during the musical climax of the film we showered the audience with balloons and streamers.

The sleepless weekend went by faster than I could comprehend. Our last film was The Cameraman, a delightful silent comedy/romance starring Buster Keaton, and a great film to bring the themes of the festival together.  In it a suitor determinedly pursues his twin love objects, a woman and filmmaking.

Film is our love object, too, and I think our passion was reflected in the festival’s filmmakers and their enthusiastic audience.  I have full confidence that next year’s program will bring its own innovations, its own passionate players, its own rewards.   Stay tuned for coming attractions. 

Film Fest poster, chosen as Poster of the Week by