You could be in pictures

The University Motion Picture Club hosts its second film festival

by Steven Snyder

Some people complain about the world. Others step up and take action.

To some degree, that’s been the motto of the University Motion Picture Club since its inception in the fall. Its goal has been consistent since the start: to promote the interests of University students intent on making films at an institution that currently offers few alternatives.

That’s exactly where Corey Birkhofer and the 24 Films Per Semester Fest come in.

Birkhofer, the club’s founder and president, is also the organizer of the festival that is scheduled to run Friday – Sunday at the West Bank Union program hall, previously known as the West Bank auditorium.

Unlike the recent student film festival organized by the Minnesota Programs and Activities Council at Coffman Union, the club’s event features student films from across the country. The festival also facilitates postfilm discussions with the filmmakers.

“I’m passionate about film,” Birkhofer said, “And I’ve researched every nook and cranny in hopes of finding film production at the University. But then I realized I’d have to start this film club because no one else is really doing anything.”

Of the 24 films scheduled to appear this weekend, the festival will highlight four from University students and one on which an officer of the club worked extensively.

“Unfortunately, there aren’t many student films being submitted from the University of Minnesota, but that’s a symptom of the problem,” Birkhofer said.

Concerned the festival might be lumped together with the recent Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival and Minnesota Programs and Activities Council’s Student Film Festival 2005, Birkhofer said his organization’s priorities are different from any one other film body on campus.

“We’re trying to do film production and exhibition. That makes us unique, but, at the same time, it works against us, because the University doesn’t have any film production,” he said.

Last semester’s festival was the group’s first, but Birkhofer said it brought many interesting and engaging works to campus. In the case of the documentary “From There to Here,” directed by Vu Tran, the festival premiered the work that would go on to win the top prize at the activities council’s festival four months later.

This semester, filmmakers are competing to win a free copy of Final Cut Pro 4 software, donated by Apple Computer Inc.

Showing eight films during each night’s program, Birkhofer has carefully curated the festival to offer a healthy balance of documentaries, narratives and short films.

The festival begins and ends with titles exploring pressing U.S. issues.

Michael Lahey’s “Making Waves” kicks off the festival. The film is about the increasing number of pirate radio stations amid an age of increasing media consolidation. “The Quiltmakers of Gee’s Bend” ends the festival Sunday. It is a documentary about a group of black quilt-makers who live in one of the poorest counties in the United States and whose quilts are now being displayed in some of the world’s most prominent museums.

“We’re opening with a bang and closing with a bang,” Birkhofer said. “Nestled within are some really good student films.”

Managing most of the festival’s details on his own, Birkhofer said his idea of a successful festival starts and ends with participation.

“If I can get a decent turnout and, more importantly, some great discussion generated, I’m happy,” Birkhofer said. “That’s what I want – people to come in and watch good films and discuss them passionately with their creator.”

Birkhofer said the next project for the club is a rejected-film festival, one reserved solely for filmmakers who “can prove they have been rejected by other festivals.”

And, of course, Birkhofer remains focused on the loftiest of all goals: A film-production program at the University.