The 38th Boston Film Festival took place from Sept. 22 through Sept. 26, screening movies around the state and online, giving independent filmmakers—including three Emerson alumni—the chance to expose their work to the public.
The festival opted to kick off this year’s program with a blockbuster screening— Olivia Wilde’s “Don’t Worry Darling,” an intentional, attention-grabbing move, according to Operations Manager Hannah Manelark. The film garnered a lot of media buzz in the weeks leading up to its release due to whispers of behind-the-scenes scandals.
For Lily Pierce and Nick Cartensen, the news spurred them to attend the Sept. 22 screening. Despite not considering themselves cinephiles, the roommates appreciate the movie scene. They were excited to attend a festival dedicated solely to that realm.
“We like to watch movies. We’re not overly critical,” said Pierce.
Outside of in-person events—which sometimes featured Q&As with directors, producers, and cast members—the festival also offered a slew of virtual screenings as well. The decision to offer the majority of screenings in a strictly digital format was in response to limited theater space, accessibility, and “concerns about COVID,” according to Robin Dawson, the festival’s executive director. Most festivals set up their schedules with multiple showings at one time, allowing patrons to pick their preference. The Boston Film Festival, however, prefers to not have overlapping slots so that people can see as many films as possible, another reason for keeping the screenings mostly virtual.
To enter, filmmakers submit their movies to the festival’s selection committee. Then, the committee’s members “watch the films and they’re given criteria, and they rate the films based on that criteria,” said Dawson. Demetria Curry, a member of the screening committee, elaborated that these categories include structure, direction, acting, and more. She says there are “so many little aspects that go into judging these [films].” Manclark says the best way to impress the judges is through passion, by telling “a story you really care about.” Curry also added that the festival aims to highlight movies that “bring to light a lot of things that people don’t know,” such as stories of a culture different from their own, or an in-depth look into aspects of climate change, both of which were seen in this year’s program.
Three Emerson alumni from the class of 2022 created a film featured in the festival, entitled “Peace Be With You,” spearheaded by Writer-Director Colmcille Donston, Producer Georgie Hess, and Director of Photography William Rowley. Donston made the film for his senior BFA. He says having it accepted into a film festival was hugely validating, proving to himself that he was “on the right track.”
Dawson prides herself on cultivating a festival that “supports students and young filmmakers.” She added, “Particularly now, film festivals are extremely critical to the future filmmaking industry because there are so many great films out there that don’t have an avenue to present their creative vision; and so we need film festivals for the continuing of filmmaking.”
The Boston Film Festival concluded on Sept. 26 with another successful year.