By Catherine Wang
Despite a last-minute change in guest speakers, the 8th annual Film Festival at the Arclight Hollywood Cinerama Dome March 18 attracted more than 600 people to hear Oscar-nominated filmmaker Guillermo del Toro (“Pan’s Labyrinth,” “Hellboy”) and Oscar-nominated actor Jake Gyllenhaal ’98 and to watch 19 student films. Director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu (Maria Gonzalez ’13), Academy Award nominee for “Babel” and “Biutiful,” was originally scheduled to host the festival. He underwent an appendectomy the day before the festival and was not able to attend.
“Right after he got out of surgery he asked whether he could host the festival,” festival adviser Cheri Gaulke said. “He really wanted to do it.”
Gaulke and her fellow Film Festival adviser Ted Walch considered having Iñaritu speak at the festival from his hospital through a video camera, but ultimately decided against the idea, Gaulke said. Iñaritu called del Toro and asked him to speak in his place, del Toro said.
During his early days as a filmmaker, “I thought film was like fruit from a tree fully formed. I thought some people just saw Godzilla crushing cars and got him on film,” del Toro said.
He applauded the festival organizers for supporting young artists’ foray into the film world.
“This is a wonderful bridge,” he said. “I never dreamed of something like this when I was young.”
President Thomas C. Hudnut remembered the creation of the film festival in 2004 by Elizabeth Yale ’04 and marveled at how much it has grown.
“It was like a snowball rolling down a hill,” he said. “We used to only take films from the greater metropolitan Los Angeles area, and now we get submissions from across California. The submissions are growing, both in number and in quality.”
This year’s film festival included a preshow red carpet, during which AMC News correspondent Jacob Soboroff ’01 interviewed all the student filmmakers.
A committee of students and faculty, including Gaulke, Walch and math teacher Kevin Weis, selected the 19 festival films from more than 200 submissions by California high school students. The selected films ranged from animated films to documentaries to music videos. A panel of film industry judges, including Peter Baxter (Zoe ’13), James Brooks, Rona Cosgrove ’85, Priscilla Nedd Friendly (Madeleine ’13, Andrew ’14), Tim Ryan and Yale, voted on the Lizzie Award recipients.
“In the Quiet Hour,” a story of a family coping with the death of a family member, by Max Sokoloff of the San Francisco Art and Film Program, won the Lizzie Award for Best Overall Film.
Festival Directors Nick Lieberman ’11 and Jacqueline Sir ’11 awarded the Festival Directors’ Choice award to “Texas Tea,” a music video about love, by Stefan Ng of University High School.
“The Forest” by Rachel Clyde of the San Francisco Art and Film Program received the Sally Menke Award for Editing, named after the female film editor who died last fall.
“How to Disappear Completely,” by Cesar Cervantes of Bell High School received the Humanitarian award, “Sunny Side Up” by Mattan Cohen of Northwood High School received the Founder’s award, “Starface” by Chanel Samson, Cassandra Dimas and Caitie Guttry of Providence High School received the Sound Design and Originality awards, “Saving Private Schmidt” by Elius Kim and Kevin Clark of Capistrano Valley High School received the Direction and Cinematography awards, “Wangypong. The Movie.” by Harry Keenan, Max Groel and Johnny Frohman of Palisades Charter High School received the Story/Writing award and “See” by Molly Cinnamon ’14 and Miranda Kaser of Harvard-Westlake Summer Film Camp received the Use of Music and Title Design awards.
Also screened were “Honey…When Are You Coming Home” by Adam Hull of Notre Dame High School, “I Hurt Too” by Rayka Zehtabchi of University High School, “iDate” by Ben Mullen of Culver City High School, “Paris is Burning” by Carolina Vazquez, Olivia Tant, Jake Kolton and Adrian Lau of Santa Monica High School, “Pedestrious” by Hugo Alvarez of Bell High School, “Psalm 51” by Mason Shefa of Oakwood School, “Speechless” by Libby Blood of El Dorado High School, “Strike Force” by Vishal Rattanchandani of the Orange County High School for the Arts, “Suffocation” by Nick Lieberman, Gabe Benjamin and Jacqueline Sir of Harvard-Westlake School and “The Clock of Life” by Eric Brownrout and Josh Levin of Calabasas High School.
The New York Film Academy gave a $1,500 scholarship to Cervantes and $500 scholarships to the other filmmakers.
At the conclusion of the film screenings, Gyllenhaal took the stage and shared his memory of Harvard-Westlake’s first film festival in Rugby Auditorium as well as his admiration for the filmmakers.
“Promise me you’ll all hire me for your movies,” he said.
All of the student filmmakers joined him on stage for a picture. Lieberman and Sir then asked the filmmakers questions about the conception and production of their films.
After the program, filmmakers and audience members enjoyed refreshments at a reception at the Arclight Café.
Summit Entertainment and Deluxe Digital’s Rob Friedman (Taylor ’03, Lane ’07) underwrote the DVDs of the 17 screened films that all audience members received as they walked out of the theater.
The filmmakers attended workshops in Rugby the day after the film festival with director Barnet Kellman, acting coach Andrew Block, cinematographer Lance Acord, Ember and Cosgrove.