Festival organizers want University in lead role

The Minneapolis-St. Paul Film Festival is winding down, and organizers hope to see more student involvement in the future.

by Andrew Johnson

With its global flair and wide-reaching variety, the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival has found a presence on the University of Minnesota campus âÄî a presence some think could grow even more.
âÄúIâÄôm just surprised that more people, especially students, arenâÄôt going down there and seeing what it has to offer,âÄù Raven Johnson, a studies in cinema and media culture junior, said.
After three weeks of running, the film festival will come to an end later this week. The annual festival is presented by the Film Society of Minneapolis/St. Paul at the St. Anthony Main Theatre.
Johnson volunteers at the film festival three times a week. Her tasks range from cataloging movies to updating the database and filling out synopses.
She said she has enjoyed the experience so far because it allows her to see a side of the film industry that often goes ignored in the U.S..
âÄúI think the most incredible thing about the festival is that it offers the opportunity to see that thereâÄôs more out there than what Hollywood has to offer,âÄù she said.
She said she has also appreciated meeting the filmmakers, directors and cinematographers who have attended the film festival to discuss their work.
Cultural studies and comparative literature professor Hisham Bizri said he was happy to screen his short film in his home after showings in Paris, Berlin and Doha, Qatar.
âÄúAlthough the film was shot elsewhere, it was really made here in the sense of thinking about it,âÄù Bizri said.
The eight-minute film, entitled âÄúA Film,âÄù is the latest out of about a dozen he has made. Bizri has had at least one film at the film festival in each of the past four years.
âÄúTheyâÄôve been very supportive,âÄù he said. âÄúThe community sells out [the theater] every time one of my films shows.âÄù
Ryan Oestreich, the film festivalâÄôs coordinator, said he is grateful for the involvement and contributions from the University as an institution. Nevertheless, he said the entire student body would benefit from what the film festival offers.
âÄúI canâÄôt imagine anybody who wouldnâÄôt find something at the festival they wouldnâÄôt enjoy,âÄù he said.
Oestreich said the film societyâÄôs âÄî and ultimately the festivalâÄôs âÄî roots can be found on campus in the Bell Museum of Natural History Auditorium, where a journalism professor showed films for students 50 years ago. The film society has since grown and expanded into the rest of the Twin Cities area.
âÄúThe history is right there, engrained in the University,âÄù said Oestreich, a former University  student himself. âÄúThereâÄôs not a course at the U that we couldnâÄôt find something to relate to.âÄù
The film festivalâÄôs lineup this year is its biggest yet, with more than 170 films from 50 countries. Projects range from short films, experimental films, documentaries, dramas and comedies. A short film shot entirely on an iPhone is also being screened.
âÄúItâÄôs all here,âÄù Oestriech said. âÄúItâÄôs just how do you get the students excited about it?âÄù
Johnson said she hopes more students will take advantage of what the film festival has to offer.
âÄúFilm is such a grand medium and it touches everyone around the world,âÄù she said. âÄúItâÄôs such a great place and itâÄôs just down the street from us.âÄù