Arts & Entertainment, Theatre

Lights, Camera, Fokus!

It was a 1920s-movie-premiere-meets-after-class-hangout. The vibe and fashion of the crowd at Cinema du Parc on March 23 seemed the perfect mix of what the night’s event represented: A showcase for some of Montreal’s up-and-coming film directors and a celebration of the friendships that made the films possible. 

Consisting of over 40 submissions, this year’s Fokus Film Festival presented a wide variety of talent, which, thanks to Fokus’ new rule, allowed entries from anyone in the greater Montreal area and broke outside of the typical McGill bubble. Acting as McGill’s longest-running (but not its only) film festival, Fokus gives Montreal filmmakers a platform to share their work, creating opportunities often not present at the university level. While the provincial government allots creative funding to Concordia and UQAM, McGill is designed as more research-focused.

 “My biggest gripe with McGill, which I love going to and enjoy, is we have little creative support at an academic level for people who want to venture into fields that aren’t as academically oriented,” said Sofia Andrade (U1 Arts), President of Student Television at McGill (TVM), in an interview with The McGill Tribune. “TVM’s greatest impact at McGill is that we offer the opportunities and the equipment and the funds to those who want to do creative things on campus, to do it without having to sacrifice other things.”

Anyone can submit their pieces to the Fokus Film Festival either through an open-call general submission option by March 12 or by participating in TVM’s 72-Hour Filmmaking Contest from March 9-12. Six general submissions, representing the filmmakers’ artistic toils of months or years, were nominated for awards such as Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Performance. A panel of six judges, including John Castillo, a music professional development professor at McGill, and Ned Schantz, a cultural studies and cinema professor in McGill’s English department, judged the films then and there. 

The 72-Hour films—which had to be written, shot, and edited in under three days—had the opportunity to take home the coveted Best 72-Hour Film. This year, The Story of Chad Chambers claimed the honour, a comedy which tied in social media and hair dryers in a medley that had the whole theatre crying with laughter. The creativity and passion of all participants were evident in the other 72-Hour films as well. With wide-ranging topics from Night of the Attack of the Killer Bubbles From Outer Space, a sci-fi flick that featured…well, killer bubbles, to Bug, an experimental film taking the focus of both a bug and a computer virus, you couldn’t help but wonder how these films came together in such a short amount of time. 

The general submissions were no less impressive. Composed of mixed media films, such as claymation and animation, as well as student-made movies, the range of films kept the audience on the edge of their seats for the entire festival. Featuring scenery like iconic staircases and colourful apartment buildings that will seem all too familiar to Montreal residents, the film La Ligne followed a ballerina who steps outside of the bounds of her profession and trusts herself. In Travail d’equipe, created by the makers of Night of the Attack of the Killer Bubbles from Outer Space, deadtime media, a nightmare group project got a little too out-of-hand. 

“Filmmaking is scary because it feels like there’s a high barrier to entry, [and] that’s true,” Andrade said. “You need a lot of money, people to teach you, but TVM is there to provide that, so you can only worry about learning the stuff.” 

As the interview ended, Andrade then turned to wave at one of the actors in The Story of Chad Chambers who yelled, “Thank you for the opportunity to show our film!” Not a paid ad, but it might as well have been.

 This year’s screenings and awards ceremony drew a full house, immediately followed by an afterparty at Tipsy Cow. Hopefully, in upcoming years, the films will showcase collaborations between McGill students and the larger Montreal community, which judging by the hard-core networking happening that night, might very well make the cut.

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