UCI’s Newport Film Festival Showcase

Courtesy of Savannah Peykani

Courtesy of Savannah Peykani

Courtesy of Savannah Peykani

Courtesy of Savannah Peykani

Last Saturday, audiences from across Orange County had the chance to take a peek inside the at times bizarre but always artful world of UC Irvine’s Digital Filmmaking program in the Department of Art.

April 25 marked UCI’s inaugural showcase at the Newport Beach Film Festival (NBFF), featuring 14 short films all made by students from the Digital Filmmaking program. This was the first year that the NBFF has reached out and invited UCI to participate in the festival, a testament to how talented the program on campus is.

Held in a screening room at Sage Hill School, the showcase started with the 14 films, followed by a brief Q&A session with the filmmakers in attendance. The Digital Filmmaking program even made their own buttons to hand out to audience members.

Kicking things off was Christine Kim’s three-minute “Box Dance,” a whimsical montage of various students dancing around campus with a Fed Ex box over their heads. As the dance styles got weirder, the audience laughter got louder.

Whatever humor viewers felt brewing in the air during the first few films disappeared completely in Svetlana Linetskaya’s jarring “Untitled (Are You Who You Are).” Her short consisted of only one shot: a hand being sewn with red thread to weave each finger together. The audience gave a collective gasp and flinch as the needle made its first puncture into the skin. Meanwhile, a voice over expressed ideas of questioning identity in a world in which there are such rigidly placed expectations, rules of etiquette and standards of behavior, particularly for women.

Next was Liz Goetz’ documentary “Native Corn in a Time of Drought,” which highlights the political struggles over corn production in Guatemala.

Adrian Garcia’s “Spaced” began a series of films that were more experimental, with less linear narratives and heightened visual appeal. In it, Garcia narrates the journey of a man who tries to exist in two places at once.

Then there was Jason Bernstein’s chaotic “Benghazi,” with a clearly heightened political message concerning patriotism, foreign affairs and the media.

“Two Points of Failure,” MFA candidate Michael Moshe Dahan’s submission, started off as a slow fizzle and gradually turned into its own visual universe. The film is completely un-manipulated, real time footage of an image dissolving and then morphing into a new image. Inspired by Jean-Luc Godard, a French New Wave pioneer filmmaker, Dahan’s film has also been entered into the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival and the 2014 International Film Festival Rotterdam.

Bryan Jackson’s epic short “Cursed to Remain” traced the semi-fictional experiences of the young actors all within the confines of one grimy, old public restroom.

Almost a collection of even shorter films within one less short film, “Cursed to Remain” jumped from one group of characters to another as they explored what it means to face the world with young eyes and white paint all over their skin.

The showcase ended with just as much whimsy as it began. Tiger Souvannakoumane incited laughter throughout the entire crowd with his animated mockumentary “Confessions of Civilized Animals.”

His film included interviews of three animals in the hypothetical situation that these species had evolved like humans. Each animated creature existed in a live-action world, with stereotypically contemporary voices, all enhancing the satire on human evolution and the modern societal condition.

During the Q&A, the filmmakers were able to further explain their inspiration and the filmmaking process. Many of the audience’s questions were directed toward Moshe Dahan’s abstract eye-pleaser.

His film begins with the quotation, “Where there’s a corpse, there’s a mystery.” He explains its context to his movie by saying, “It is the corpse of cinema.”

“Two Points of Failure” takes a reel of 35mm film and not only literally dissolves it into oblivion, but also figuratively, Moshe Dahan thinks of Godard’s experimentation with the future of film as a medium.

“De-Bug,” a video game inspired comedy about a young man’s first year at college, is actually the first part of a longer series.

“There are five episodes in season one,” said director Kevin Que, “and now it’s in its second season.”

“It feels weird having my film in a festival. This is the first time I ever have,” said Garcia. “It makes me want to make more films and watch more films that my peers have made.”

And for anyone who wants to make films but maybe are unsure if they know enough about how to? Well, Que has the perfect solution to any filmmaking conundrum.

“There are YouTube tutorials for everything!”