Montclair Film Festival Amazes Students

The next generation of film maker arrived at this year's student portion of the Montclair Film Festival, held this past Friday, May 3. Heartstrings were pulled, knees were slapped and eyes teared up from grief and joy.

Montclair Film Festival always is interesting.

Movie slate and film reel on wood
© Fernando Gregory | Dreamstime Stock Photos

An eclectic mix of student shorts premiered on Friday at the Bellevue Theater in Montclair as part of the Montclair Film Festival. There was a large pre-sale for the event, and the theater was packed with 175 attendees by the time the intro piece, a compilation of students working on films, screened.

NJ Shorts: New Visions from MSU” featured nine of the top short films from students in Montclair State University’s Filmmaking BFA program. Perhaps the most heartfelt and endearing film at the Montclair Film Festival, especially in a New Jersey venue, was “Unshore,” an intimate screenshot of the aftermath of hurricane Sandy. The film juxtaposed the bare nature of the post-Sandy shore with the vibrant carnival-esque beauty of pre-Sandy Seaside, N.J.

Every head in the audience of the Montclair Film Festival was fixed to the screen, lost in nostalgia and filled with hope as footage of the boardwalk repair played on the screen. The project was a collaborative effort by Tom Mika, a senior filmmaking major, and Lindsay Rassmann, a senior broadcasting major who is graduating in May.

In regards to working with Mika, Rassmann said, “I had all this footage, but I didn’t know how to present it in a narrative fashion. It was great to have Tom, a fresh pair of eyes, to edit the footage and help tell a story.”

The Montclair Film Festival was brought to a close with the film “Just A Kid.” The most-well received film of the night, “Just A Kid” explored the theme of coming of age as it applied to a younger-sister-older-brother relationship. It was cute without being overbearing, and warm without feeling syrupy. The audience roared when it was over, even booing as they cut the credits.

“I’ve worked in the festival before,” said the director, Michael Scotti.  “It’s interesting to see it from the other [side], to be one of the filmmakers. It’s so surreal.”

The Montclair Film Festival kicked off with “Mr. Blindside,” a short neo-silent film by student director, Kara Rada, a senior English major with a minor in Film. In short, it was a dark comedy about a jealous wife and her urge to do away with one of her husband’s previous flings.

“My goal was to show the psychological madness of a woman who is blinded by a one-track mind, poisoned by her own thought process,” Rada said in an earlier press release.

One of the highlights of the night was the second film, “Our Mechanical Future,” directed by MSU alumni, Jenina Podulka. The film toys with the idea of how the populous is shaped by technology – in this case prosthetic limbs.  It was poignant, subtly scathing yet whimsical in its portrayal of consumerism. It begged the questions: What will be the effect of cutting edge technology when it is mass produced? And what has become obsolete in our own world?

“It was an awesome experience,” Podulka said after the event. “This was the largest venue where I have presented a film. It was worth the two months of no sunlight during production.”

The next two films were polar opposites. The first was “Exit,” directed by Monika Kolodziej, was a drama about two sisters and one sister’s attempt to get the other to take on the responsibility of caring for their alcoholic father. The other was “Poor Earl,” directed by Karl Erikson, a comedy about the rekindling of an aging marriage. The protagonist, Earl, only says one word: “Shit!”

These showed the diverse taste of the filmmakers coming out of MSU. The audience was appalled by the selfishness of the one sister; they were charmed and in stitches by the end of Earl’s redemptive tale.

A name that appeared in almost all the films was Susan Skoog, an instructor at MSU. She was just as excited to work with the students as they were to present their films saying after the screenings. “I’m so proud,” said Skoog. “For me, going to work is like a film festival every day.”

Check out the Montclair Film Festival website for more on upcoming events and for a recap of the student film festival.

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