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The Mass Media

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February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

UMass Boston Hosts Independent Film Festival Summit

For the third consecutive year, the film series at the University of Massachusetts Boston collaborated with the Independent Film Festival Boston (IFFB) and gave the public the possibility to meet local, national, and foreign people working in the industry. It also gave filmmakers a chance to exchange ideas and share their work in this hub of creativity and passion for movies. The summit has now been extended in its programming and the number of invited guest speakers.

The two-day event included special topics panels, a works-in-progress competition, a director luncheon, and the movie screenings of  “The Amina Profile” and “Hot Type: 150 years of The Nation,” followed by a Q&A.

The summit started off with the “Laws & Documentary” panel, in which filmmakers and law experts discussed what role narratives play—or should play—in relation with social justice. It pointed out that films and law issues can support each other and highlight problems in the legal system that often remain unnoticed. The moderator of the discussion, Regina Austin, professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania, is one of the leading figures when it comes to activism by both using law and documentaries together. In recent years she has been holding the position as director of the Penn Program on Documentaries and Law. The panelists, Kate Davis, David Heilbroner, and Kate Nace Day gave inside views of what law does and what could be improved. Over the course of the panel it was mentioned that the improvement of technology is making a large and undeniable difference when reporting on social issues and inequality. Since the high-tech equipment is quite cheaper and more transportable nowadays, it becomes easier for regular and not yet established people to realize their ideas and advocate for important matters. Furthermore, the panelists agreed that social media provides a market of ideas that can be continuously shared. Social media have also become an important tool in mobilizing people and supporting social and legal change. Subsequently, the average person is now able to share a story, in which the legal system has failed them or other people, to a greater number of people and show how new policies could change their situation. In this situation, the line between reporter and advocate often becomes blurred.

The second event, the “Massachusetts Works-In-Progress Competition,” presented the possibility for local filmmakers to present their current, unfinished projects to a jury composed of film-industry experts Lyda Kuth, Marie Emmanuelle, Thomas Hartness, and Monika Navarro. Moreover, the contest offered filmmakers a way to connect and show their work to invited and potential funders, broadcasters, festival programmers, brand partners, and other people active in the industry. As the organizer of the UMass Boston Film Series explained, this unique experience supports the local filmmakers and helps build and establish film communities here in Boston and Massachusetts in general.

The participants at this competition did not only present a trailer for their movie, but disclosed information about the making of the film, their distribution strategy, their budget, and their post-production plans.

The second day of the summit was kicked off with a tribute to the recently deceased Albert Maysles, as well as his brother Davis Maysles. The brothers were born in Dorchester and lived in Brookline in their later years. They are mostly known for their inspiring work in the documentary field, with works like “Gimme Shelter” and a feature about The Beatles’ first visit to the United States. The event was attended by local and foreign filmmakers who all shared a high level of admiration and respect for the brothers as filmmakers, but also as people who remained humble and kind even throughout their many successes, as noted by several of the attendees in personal anecdotes. As curator Chico Colvard noted, “their intuition stands out” and they “capture perfect moments” because they “allow life to unfold.”

In the last panel of the summit, the focus laid on the genre of video essays and how they have contributed to the film industry. Prominent panelists and video essayist included Kevin B. Lee, Nelson Carvajal, Serena Bramble and Drew Morton, whose works have been published on major media outlets such as Fandor and indieWIRE’s Press Play. It was addressed how video essays are an effective alternative in learning about film in depth and about the making of movies. Carvajal explained that video essays present the opportunity of sharing thoughts and different perspectives by “borrowing ideas and putting it into our concept.” However, many video essayists get into conflict with major film and video distribution companies, as Kevin B. Lee added, because the video essays are often not recognized as an separate art, but often judget as something which got simply copied. Lee continued by rejecting this belief because video essays merely present a point of view to one or more films, and give a critique of the current status of the industry and way of telling stories. Subsequently, it is wrong to say that video essays are unlawfully copied replica of the original movies, because they present a personal and analytical input to movies and are represent their own work of art.

The IFFBoston will have screenings and side events in many different location over the city and will go on until April 29th. For more information, go to http://iffboston.org.
Dates for upcoming screenings and general information about the the UMass Boston Film Series can be found at http://www.umb.edu/filmseries.