2022 UCSD Film Festival – A Student Blockbuster

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Triton TV hosts UCSD’s first-ever student body film festival and builds a sense of community along the way.

Movies. Film. Movie theater. The art form of motion pictures goes by many names. While the last few years of constant releases of superheroes and blockbusters may lead people to believe that money-shots in formula form are all the art form has left to offer, it’s far from the truth. Films are still a medium that allows people to express themselves in ways they deem appropriate and allows others to see themselves in those expressions. In short, movies can still unite people, and no better example of that unity has been showcased than at the UC San Diego Film Festival.

UCSD’s first Student Body Film Festival – hosted by Triton TV – was held April 23 at the Price Center Theater, lasting most of the day. I entered the festival with an open mind in terms of both the number of people I expected and the quality of the films, and I surely wasn’t disappointed either. As the day progressed, there were more and more people, creating an enthusiastic environment all the time. As certain films were announced, groups of people cheered on the filmmakers, but by the end of the film, everyone present was still cheering loudly. The event saw a large influx of moviegoers on campus for the festival’s first outing, a promising sign for years to come.

“I thought the movies were wonderful,” said Anel Valdez, a senior in attendance. “It was a great experience to be able to see the work of the students, and I think it’s a great way to connect everyone, that way they’re about to promote their work, and then let it be their friends or the general public who are interested in cinema, I think anyone can just come and support and enjoy this event.

Throughout the event, there were three categories of films: documentary, experimental and narrative. Although only three categories, the range within each category was so vast, covering so many films, that it would be difficult to describe them all in one article, so I will limit myself to a few from each category.

The documentary category had everything from a short but sweet documentary on a UCSD badminton player named Advit Gupta with “Dreamer”, to a longer article on the current climate change situation and how the UC system is involved in “Coming Clean “. The star film in this category was “The General Store,” a documentary about, who would have guessed it, UCSD’s beloved General Store. This documentary was directed by Justin Marquez and follows the perspective of his co-worker Zaya and how she came to learn about campus co-op, her daily routine there, and how the store manages to survive against a red adversary. : Target.

Here’s what Justin and Zaya had to say about their experience:

Justin Marquez – “The General Store”: “The General Store” is my baby. I worked at the general store before the pandemic for a few months and got to know each other really well, they’re all my friends, and it was a really good experience working with them. I filmed it about a year ago now, and it was a moving experience. There were hurdles that I had to jump through, so it was really rewarding to see the reactions, to be in the crowd, to see people reacting really positively to work, to laugh, to appreciate the charismatic jokes between all the members of the cooperative because it confirms that it was worth doing all along.

Zaya Gooding – actress: “Being in the documentary has really helped strengthen our relationship with TTV,” Zaya said. “I think what’s so great about the Old Student Center is that a lot of us aren’t into one thing, most of us are involved in more than one co-op or organization here, so Justin being with both the general store and TTV has really helped us build that relationship and I don’t think we had that before the documentary, which I think is really great to be able to work with them and have that contact there because they’re really wonderful and awesome and great at what they do.”

Then, as the late morning turned into the early afternoon, we hit the experimental category and, as the name suggests, it was very experimental. This category included everything from poetry recitals with “Thoughts in Polysyndeton”; a self-reflective monologue between the filmmaker and her subconscious filmed in casting with “Alana Burgess’ Self Tape”; a stop motion photograph in “All Colors Go to Black”; and a “Scott Pilgrim vs the World” film about roller skaters battling corporate patriarchy in “Lola vs the Cockalorums.” Each of these films had nothing to do with the previous one, each demonstrating the students’ different personalities and approaches to filmmaking.

Here’s what some of the experimental filmmakers had to say at the event:

Alana Burgess – “Alana Burgess’ Self Tape”: “It’s exciting, it’s just a whole new wheelhouse for me. I’ve never done a movie before, so everything is brand new, so it’s pretty overwhelming but in a good way My favorite part of making the movie was releasing a bunch of pent up emotions that I had that I just needed to artistically get out of.

Sydney Ho – “Thoughts in Polysyndeton”: “It’s really exciting, I’m a little scared honestly, but it’s really cool to work on something and have the people you care about see it.”

Millie Root – ‘A Letter to Her God’: “It’s a little nerve-wracking, but it’s really great to have this opportunity on campus and to feel supported not only by my professors, but also by a student organization , so that’s really exciting. I can create exactly what I have in mind, maybe not exactly all the time, but the image overlap is really important to me and the blue color is really important to me, and it was very apparent in my film. Also, the fact that I was able to overcome my grief, my film was about personal grief, so I had to do that personally through art.

The narrative category almost felt like an extension of the experimental category. I mean that as a compliment because the variety of stories and approaches was so different that I was excited for each piece even as the afternoon turned into evening. There were serious movies like the one that tackled the issue of bias when creating AI with “Reboot”; another who delved into mental health and schizophrenia with “The Diagnosis.” There were fun tracks like “Quack Quack”, which I thought was an homage to “Chucky” but with rubber duckies, and “The College” and “David Bunfill’s Guide to UCSD” which were both tracks from mockumentary style mocking UCSD.

Here’s what some of the narrative filmmakers had to say at the event:

Matthew Stepanek – “Falling Once, Falling Every Time”: “I don’t usually show my work to anyone, and this is the first time it’s been screened in a public place, and I’m nervous, but it’s very exciting , and it’s really cool to see my film compared to other student films. The best part of college for me, and the best part of an art program, is seeing all the work that my peers are doing. It’s inspiring to see such good things.

Kristine Nguyen – ‘The Kettle Overflows Past Midnight’: “I think seeing my film screened with a bunch of other amazing artists and filmmakers is pretty exciting. I’m mostly here for the community, to show my support for other people’s work. I think the best part about it is the relationships that form, the friendships that form, that’s what makes making art worth it, that I can build things with other people and be creative with other people.

Jalal Al-Marashi Jaffer – “Reboot”: “I put a lot of work into this piece and I’m excited to see how others enjoy it, maybe what they get out of it. This specific project was very interesting because it was a science fiction piece, a techno horror piece pushing the boundaries of what science is today, but it’s actually about using a robot from five years ago years, to use it, to give it life, to tell it a story to make us question our own humanity today.

If there’s a consistent theme between the feelings of the filmmakers, it’s that of community. The festival definitely brought out the best that UCSD’s film and film communities have to offer; filmmakers were able to show their work to the UCSD student body, and moviegoers created a positive atmosphere for everyone to enjoy the experience of watching the work of fellow Newts and friends. Given that this was Triton TV’s first film festival open to the entire population of UCSD, marking the history of the campus, one can certainly expect Triton TV to hit the stars in the years coming.

Image courtesy of Triton TV

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