December 3, 2004

Students in Focus

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Unbeknownst to most of Cornell’s population, 19 students have spent the last several months researching, filming and occasionally crying over their independent film projects. On December 5 and 12, the entire city of Ithaca will have the opportunity to enjoy the unique images of these young visionaries at two screenings inside Cornell Cinema’s Willard Straight Hall theatre.

The films from the introductory class range from a documentary about WWII-obsessed twins to personal reflections on spiritual development. Shawn McMullen’s comedy Hitchin’ a Ride presents a sympathetic portrait of a hitchhiking serial killer who cannot stomach the inane utterances and questionable musical taste of his drivers. Open to Criticism, a mockumentary, exposes the massive conspiracy surrounding the suggestion box in Jansen’s, West Campus’ dining facility, while the dark comedy The Curse of Penny Station involves a confrontation at a train station between an old, lonesome man and a college student waiting to pick up his girlfriend.

More serious films include Ryan Spicer’s For Jasmine, which disturbingly renders an attention-starved girl who resorts to masochism, and Trevor White’s Perfect, which relates the tragic results of misunderstanding a relationship.

There are also several non-traditional narratives that use iconic imagery and diagetic sound to reveal more personal stories. Victoria Cohen’s film revisits a damaged relationship by means of a non-linear plotline. Marie Brun examines sensual perception through a receptive student’s point of view. In Daniel Cohen’s Collaege, four years of a Cornell education flow by in 12 minutes. Zach Jones’ Psalm 102 is a visual poem attempting to reconcile formal and earth-based spirituality through images of structure, nature, prayer and death. Finally, the experimental “Placebo” shows a student seeking transcendence by experimenting with religion and drugs.

In The World According to Lawrence Brenner, director Shamika Pryce follows the daily adventures of Cornell’s most well-known maverick as he describes his gear and unique lifestyle. In Catherine Galasso’s documentary, two 12-year-old twins from Suffern, NY reveal their complete infatuation with and comprehensive knowledge of WWII-era weaponry, even as they seek popularity amidst the awkward relationships of middle school. There will be only one animation in this screening: Sally Huang’s rotoscope film, En Plein Air, uses a similar method as Richard Linklater’s Waking Life, inviting students into a painted landscape of Ho Plaza.

The second screening on December 12 features four filmmakers from this semester’s most advanced film production course, the intermediate narrative filmmaking class, as well as eight animations. Amir Noorani begins Breaking the Habit with the pregnancy of a South Asian girl who eventually builds a friendship with an Eastern European stranger. Pam Su’s At Parting is a personal film combining animation and live footage in order to evoke movement and memory. Pietre A. Valbuena deftly and charmingly creates a mature adult who cannot stop reliving his childhood in Errare. The comedy Doomsday Impromptu, by Brad Wilson, revolves around a man who cannot stop murdering people accidentally. The evening concludes with the animated films created during Cornell’s summer semester, featuring the work of Brad Albright, Trasendil, Pam Su, Erica Greenwald, Ezekial Franco, Janice Yeung, Denison Hatch and Ahyicodae.

Archived article by Alex Linhardt
Sun Arts & Entertainment Associate Editor