The audience sat mesmerized and captivated by the film on the screen before them. They weren’t watching the latest big-budget Hollywood blockbuster nor one of a slew of romantic comedies to hit theaters this season. Instead, these movie-goers opted to deviate from the norm, even if only for a night, and join with a mixed bag of other film enthusiasts at Film Fest New Haven, which was held Sept. 21 through Sept. 25.
The Festival, now in its tenth year, afforded audiences a rare opportunity to escape from the doldrums of everyday cinema and enter a world of independently made films. Held at Criterion Cinemas in downtown New Haven, the festival included 13 feature films, a multitude of “shorts,” and several documentaries.
The films ran the gamut, covering a variety of genres and subjects. This year’s festival attempted to achieve a greater level of diversity, and many of the films were chosen expressly with this in mind, such as the Chilean feature “Play”, a crowd favorite on Friday night.
“I am fascinated by this movie,” said Melissa Bisagni, the artistic director for FFNH. “I am so excited by filmmakers going back to their home countries and sharing these experiences.”
Bisagni is referring to “Play’s” director Alicia Scherson, who is originally from Santiago, Chile, but was living in Chicago when she conceived the idea for the film. The movie takes place in Santiago and was filmed on location there.
Other films screened at the festival had a more close-to-home aspect, which fit in with the Connecticut connections concept that Bisagni and other FFNH staff had wanted to achieve this year.
Christopher Sepulveda, the producer for the short film “Empty”, told the audience post-screening that he is originally from the New Haven area.
“It was nice to come home and see a film done by friends and family,” said Sepulveda, 24.
“Empty” played with eight other shorts in a category simply titled “Man/Woman/Partners.” These films, which are about 15 minutes each, drew some attention from audience members because of the scarcity of this breed of film.
Nina Adams, the artistic advisor of FFNH, spoke about the decline of these films in contemporary cinema.
“Shorts are amazing gems,” Adams said. “I think it’s sad that we don’t get to see them anymore.”
Film fests, even small local festivals like this one, provide audiences with an opportunity to do something different and for many this was something new. About half of the audience at the screening for “Last” and “Play” said that it was their first time at FFNH.
“I had never even gone to anything like this before,” said Jen Overlock, 19 of Cheshire. “But it was an amazing experience and I definitely want to come back next year.”