xZotica Showcases Student Talent

This year’s James Bond-themed xZotica film festival showcased more than just students’ stabs at action flicks.
Films were shown in six genres, including music video, comedy, drama, horror/thriller, mockumentary/documentary and experimental. While many films were submitted to the film festival, only 19 made it through, presenting a veritable best-of-the-best of UC Irvine’s young filmmakers.
The festival was presented by ZotFilm. Specializing mostly in digital film production, the club is not exclusive to only film and media studies majors but extends an invitation to anyone with a sense of film appreciation.
The community of film and media studies majors and student filmmakers are usually tight-knit groups with similar objectives and a flare for innovative filmmaking.
It’s no surprise that most student films feature a recycled cast when friends help with each other’s films. This is what makes UCI’s xZotica unique. It is truly a showcase of art brought together by the students.
When UCI’s filmmakers tackle the music video genre, it’s always a surprise to see the product. When MTV first filled our everyday routines with music videos in 1983, some scoffed at the fact that music consumers were now more passively participating in the music experience.
With music videos, the images one conjures up when listening to a song are dictated to them. Yet today, the art of the music video is revered as the ability to represent a song in a different light. What these filmmakers did was take already existing songs and make their own music videos. From rock to rap, xZotica showed music videos like fourth-year film and media studies major Christine Kim’s flash animation-like rendition of Red Hot Chili Pepper’s ‘Charlie.’ It was her music video that won in its category.
Although comedy is somewhat present in nearly every genre, comedy films designated as such included fourth-year film and media studies major John Park’s potty humor-filled interpretation of the early James Bond with ‘Bond Begins.’ The winner for this category was the story behind nearly everyone’s childhood pastime: Super Mario. In Billy McLean’s film ‘Super Mario World,’ two unsuspecting plumbers get the chance of a lifetime.
Spoofs can turn dramas into comedies, but there’s nothing like the workings of a real drama, completely untouched.
Fourth-year film and media studies major Nick Refuerzo’s film, ‘Belly of the Whale’ shows a coming-of-age change in a person’s life. Fourth-year film and media studies major Allen Ho’s film ‘Silence’ brought a tale of the formidable language barrier in families of diaspora living in the United States. The winner of the category was third-year film and media studies major Russell Bush’s film, ‘Old Mrs. 26’ which brought innovative styles of filmmaking together, from period, silent films to present day.
In horror and thriller films, there are several ingredients for the best audience response. Christina Winkelmann, a third-year film and media studies major, showed ‘Method,’ which won in its category, exhibiting the horror film standards to every edge-of-your-seat heart palpitation requirement. Yet there’s also the dry sort of shock value some horror films produce with the silence of an impending doom. Or there’s the power of film-room editing like fourth-year film and media studies major Krysta Murado’s film ‘White Rabbit,’ a sort of macabre hybrid of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and ‘Donnie Darko.’
In the mockumentary and documentary department, there was a veritable choice of documentary spoofs, from an intense documentation of the Crazy Eights card game tournament to a machinima short featuring World of Warcraft characters in the world of ‘Cops.’
Then there was the category’s winner, fourth-year film and media studies major Russell Espinosa’s mockumentary ‘Booming Granny,’ which showed the day in the life of Espinosa’s grandmother in all its heartfelt glory.
The experimental films featured intensely exploratory themes to existential interpretations of life. In this category, films brought out images of silent photographers, watching the world through their lens-covered eyes, surrounded by beautiful scenery. It was fourth-year film and media studies major Marie Matutina’s ‘If Feeling Is First’ that won in the category. The film was done entirely with what appeared to be stop-motion editing with each movement a still picture and was set to Joanna Newsom’s pleasantly eerie twang. In this innovative film, saturated colors adorned the screen, brightening up the images.
The judging panel consisted of UCI film and media studies faculty and staff, including professors Lauren Steimer, Peter Krapp and teaching assistant Nathan Blake, to name a few. The final grand prize winner was Russell Bush’s film, ‘Old Mrs. 26.’ Bush’s prize was the latest edition of Final Cut Pro, courtesy of the UCI Computer Store.
xZotica was a celebratory event for all attendees and participants. Newport Beach and Cannes can have their artful festivals while UCI has its very own unique showcase of student film with xZotica.