Festival presents unique films

This year marked the 26th anniversary of the Vermont International Film Festival, making it the oldest environmental and human rights film festival in the world. The festival took place from Oct. 21-30 and was screened at its official venue, Palace 9 Cinemas, as well as at several new venues which include the FlynnSpace, North End Studios, the Essex Cinemas and UVM’s own Fleming Museum. “Everything about the festival was amazing,” Deb Ellis, president of the Board of Directors for the festival, said. “One thing we really appreciated was the amount of screenings we were able to do at UVM this year. We have a real desire to try to include the UVM community even more in the festival.” The four major themes of this year’s festival were food, borders and displacement, freedom and liberty and Egyptian cinema showcase. More than 75 films were screened over the course of the 10 days, and a wide variety of countries, including Egypt, Canada, Cuba, Italy and France, were represented. For Ellis, one of the highlights of the festival was the collection of films presented by award-winning Cuban filmmaker Rigoberto Jiménez, she said. “Because of the current embargo against Cuba, travel between the two countries doesn’t happen that often,” Ellis said. “Being able to include these really interesting Cuban films was a very special opportunity.” Jiménez’s visit was sponsored by UVM and made possible by the Americas Media Initiative. Another highlight of the festival was the 24-hour film competition “Sleepless in Burlington.” Groups of five students from the University of Vermont, Champlain College, Saint Michael’s College, Burlington College and Middlebury College worked together to create their own films with a strict set of guidelines. This year the films had to include candy corn and an iconic Burlington location, among other requirements, and the competitors were given only 24 hours to complete the challenge. “What an amazing learning experience this was for the students,” Ellis said. “The results, presented in an ‘American Idol’-style showcase featuring interactions among the audiences, students and judges, puts on display the creativity, imagination and technical skills of these, our next generation of filmmakers,” the description from the festival’s website reads. “The evening concludes with the awarding of prizes for best film, best actor, best actress and an audience choice award.” With classic elements and new endeavors, the Vermont International Film Festival completed another year of bringing a variety of lesser-known films to the Vermont community.