Vermont International Film Festival

In today’s consumer culture, leaving one movie feeling inspired is hard to come by, but feeling inspired after watching more than 50 films is nothing short of life changing. This year’s Vermont International Film Festival (VIFF) created an atmosphere where viewers and filmmakers alike came together in the spirit of creative expression, that of art through film. VIFF took place Oct. 23 through Oct. 26 at the Palace 9 in South Burlington and at the Main Street Performing Arts Center, on the corner of Lake and College Streets. The 19th annual showcase included a variety of films from Vermont filmmakers and students, to international names and well-known titles, including Guy Ritchie’s new film “Rock ‘N’ Rolla” and “Pride and Glory,” starring Edward Norton and Colin Farrell. The festival began in 1985, as one of the world’s oldest environmental and human rights festivals. Started by George and Sonia Cullinen, the inspiration to start the festival stemmed from their 1981 film “From Washing?ton to Moscow.” “While we remain committed to presenting important films [in these categories], we also have a commitment to developing our audience and presenting films that are accessible to a broader audience,” said Deborah Ellis, President of the VIFF as well as a Film Studies professor at UVM. Some of these categories include issues of environmental and human rights, as seen in “Under the Cloak of Darkness,” a documentary by Bjorn Jackson that explores the lives of migrant Mexican workers on dairy farms in Vermont. His film won him a James Goldstone Honorable Mention at this year’s festival. “I hope the public can develop an appreciation for the incredible amount of Vermont filmmaking going on at a very high level. Second, I am glad the public has an opportunity to see work generally not available through mainstream media,” Ellis said. Ellis, a born Vermonter, strives to include student films as well. These films are viewed and judged by a panel of five or fewer fellow students from UVM, Champlain, St. Michael’s, Middlebury and Burlington College. This year, Sam Carpenter and Suzannah Mullen, both UVM students, were awarded for their films, along with Ian Sotzing for Best Feature, David Kauffman and Gef Gove for Editing. John Lazzaro received an Honorable Mention for his piece as well. This festival gives budding filmmakers the platform they need to create an actual career and the motivation to press their films, not only in Vermont but also across the country. VIFF provided a cosmopolitan atmosphere of sophisticated filmmaking with its own sense of Vermont flare. The filmmakers were gracious, particularly Jackson, who stayed for around 15 minutes after his film to answer questions from the audience. The relationship between filmmaker and viewer blended in a perfect collection of respect and admiration. After viewing these films, anyone would catch the filmmaking bug, inspiring them to pick up a camera and change the way people view and appreciate art in their own world.