Film festival lends a breath of fresh air

The Vermont International Film Festival, being held on Oct. 11-15 at Burlington’s new Waterfront Theatre, features 37 feature-length films and 22 short films by filmmakers from all over the world. The festival emphasizes human rights and environmental issues through the medium of film. “We’ll give awards for best documentary, best narrative, best experimental, and best animation,” Mira Niagolova, executive director of the VTIFF said. “And it’s not for the awards, I think it’s a venue where we give an opportunity to young filmmakers to be exposed.” In addition to the 59 pictures being shown, there will be screenings of 25 student films from five different Vermont schools: Burlington College, Champlain College, Middlebury College, St. Michael’s College, and the University of Vermont. Each school will submit five films and will be judged by a panel that includes two representatives from each institution. The screening of the student films will be held on Oct. 11 at the Waterfront Theater located at the bottom of College Street. “The interesting thing is that the colleges around the state are so different from each other and the perspectives of the students are very different as well,” said Niagolova. “We end up with very nice and vibrant group of films, different genres, styles, approaches, and this year we decided to be more distinctive about the awards.” Students are also eligible for the Gold Stone Award, given to the best emerging Vermont filmmaker by the Vermont Film Commission. This year the festival will introduce a new program called Cutting Edge Into Films, which features narrative films that will address issues of social concern, but in a broader fashion than most of the other features at the festival. Niagolova says one of the goals of the VIFF is to make an impact by “bringing non-commercial forms of cinematic expression to the public attention.” This is no easy task, but the VIFF has worked hard to maintain their independent stance. “It’s working. It’s very hard but it’s working. It is difficult to maintain integrity and your mission in a very, very commercial world, which is a world of entertainment,” Niagolova says. “We’re trying to do our best and so far we haven’t compromised and I don’t think we will. And I think people now are more open to independent, non-commercial perspectives of the world than a few years ago, Niagolova said. “I think people are tired of Hollywood and commercial films, and they look for opportunities to see something different, and I think the Festival is a good place to do that.” Tickets can be purchased during the festival at the Waterfront Theater Box Office. For more information visit www.vtiff.org.