The line for the 2011 annual Redstone Film Festival stretched past the red carpet laid at the front door of the Tsai Performance Center and curved down the hallway. By show time on Wednesday night, hundreds of students, family, professors, and members of the Boston film community filed into the theater for the festival, a celebration of six stellar films by BU students.
The festival, judged by Boston Phoenix editor Peter Keough, director/producer Gabrielle Savage Dockterman, and MIT Research Director Kurt Fendt, had been plagued in previous years by technical difficulties, poor weather, and rescheduling issues. But this year, Redstone was a stunning success, from the Blu-Ray HD presentation to the selection of the students’ work.
First prize and $2000 at the festival went to Dimitri Kouri (COM’11) and Zack McGeehan (COM’11) for their 8-minute-long narrative documentary about lobster fisherman from Winthrop, “Salty Dogs.”
“It’s the culmination of a lot of work,” Kouri said after accepting his award, as friends and colleagues slapped him on the back and hugged him. “Of all the films I’ve worked on, I think this was the cheapest to make, and the most lucrative.”
Kouri, McGeehan and their crew spent several trips with the fisherman, and filmed their workdays from start to finish. The result is a striking film, with no dialogue, brilliant lighting and camera shots as slick as the decks the fishermen stood on. Salty Dogs is a smoothly minimalist film, where narrative is not as important as the minutiae of a day in these fisherman’s lives. The film doesn’t suffer from the lack of a solid plot; instead, its strengthened by the honest portrayal of the boredom and repetitive beauty of life on the sea.
Kouri and McGeehan, along with Stephen Ohl (COM ’11) and Michael Nusbaum (COM ’11), also co-directed another gem from the festival, a funny take on the absurdity of urban legends titled ¿Que? The film follows two day laborers and they swap stories of soul-stealing bosses while they wait for work. ¿Que?’s biggest strength was its witty writing. In one scene, the two day laborers share dinner at the murderer’s house. The killer begins to say grace before they eat, while his wife tries to seduce the men. “You hand guides us away from evil,” he intones, while his voluptuous wife slides a hand up her slender leg. While the film lost out to more serious flicks, it’s well intentioned humor set a great tone for the festive night.
Another highlight of the festival was Your Way Home, an emotional and heavily symbolic film about a lost Italian orphan and winner of second prize at the festival. The film was directed by Sicily native Pietro Nigro (COM, GRS ’11). Filmed on location in Syracuse, Sicily by Nigro and five BU students, Your Way Home borrowed heavily from Italian-style cinema, featuring long, tragic and beautiful shots of the ruin-strewn landscape that echo the pain of the film’s main character, a lost orphan named Massimo. Halfway through the film Massimo, builds a house among the ruins on the coast from the cast away garbage, then tears it down in a rage.
After the festival, Nigro was mobbed by friends and family; his relatives from Italy shouted “Congrazione! Congradulations!” One of his hands remained wrapped around his plaque as he spoke, while the other remained always in motion.
“This feels like the perfect seal to end my time at Boston University,” he said. “I’m happy, because it tells me I’m on the right path.” Nigro hopes to take his film to Italian film festivals to spread awareness about orphanages and social workers in Italy.
“They need to be discovered,” Nigro said. “They need support for the work that they do.”
For the fourth straight year, the organizers were forced to turn people away once the Tsai Center filled to capacity. But for the 550 attendees, the 2011 Redstone Film Festival provided a night of quality filmmaking from BU’s best and brightest directors, cinematographers and writers.
“It’s just a thrill,” said Film and Television Assistant Professor Scott Thompson, “For me, [the turnout] means we’re doing right by our students. That’s what it’s all about.”