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U-M, Traverse City Film Festival build on 'educational partnership'

  • Contact Frank Provenzano

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—For the fourth consecutive year, film experts and students from the University of Michigan will make an indelible contribution and be given an extraordinary opportunity at the Traverse City Film Festival 2012, held July 31-Aug. 5 in venues throughout the northern Michigan city.

Drawn from U-M's Department of Screen Arts and Cultures, faculty members will serve as jurors for both feature films and documentaries in the U.S. and foreign film categories as well as short films. In addition, U-M's "educational partnership" with one of the highest attended, critically acclaimed film festivals in the Midwest includes faculty serving as moderators, conducting workshops on production and acting for the camera, and premiere screenings of two short student films.

"While the mission of the festival is to entertain and enlighten through the presentation of 'Just Great Movies,' we are also committed to educating film lovers on the nuances and critical value of one of America's few indigenous art forms—the cinema," said founder and Oscar Award-winning filmmaker Michael Moore. "Our association with the University of Michigan helps us collaborate with film experts as jurors, and showcase tomorrow's filmmakers by presenting student films."

The six-day festival, which began in 2005, draws entrants from around the world and visitors from throughout the United States. Now in its eighth year, the film festival has nearly tripled the number of screenings, and for one week a year, transforms the northern Michigan tourist capital on the bay into a cultural oasis, where film aficionados watch the work of up-and-coming filmmakers, provocative short films or a classic narrative movie. There were more than 128,000 admissions for the 156 screenings at last year's event.

"The festival gives our students an incredible opportunity to show their work to an international audience and provides the audience in turn the benefit of our faculty's expertise on an amazing array of contemporary films and filmmakers," said Jim Burnstein, head of U-M's screenwriting program.

The two student films to be screened at the festival were produced in a unique, university-wide course in collaboration created by Burnstein and Robert Rayher, a senior lecturer in U-M's Department of Screen Arts and Cultures. The course—popularly referred to as "423"—features top screenwriters and production students from Screen Arts and Cultures, actors from the departments of Theatre and Musical Theatre, production designers, costumers and sound specialists from the School of Art and Design, composers from the School of Music, producers from the Ross School of Business, and students skilled in public relations from the School of Information.

The two student films are:

  • "Duvid," a film about a young man from a sheltered, ultra-orthodox community who is introduced to the underground rave scene of New York City. The abrupt contrast forces a re-examination of the bedrock of his identity at the intersection of Satmar Hasidic Judaism and electronic dance music.
  • "The V-Card," a coming-of-age comedy set at the University of Michigan based on the friendship of four senior girls. When one of the girls loses her "v-card" (a.k.a. virginity), the remaining virgins decide to lose their "v-cards," as well, before they graduate. In the hilarious process, they wind up learning a great deal about themselves and the value of committed relationships, especially friendship.

U-M faculty members participating in this year's festival include judges Phil Hallman (U.S. films), Stashu Kybartis (foreign films) and Terri Sarris (short films). Moderators include Sheila Murphy, Robert Rayher, Terry Lawson, Oliver Thornton and Matthew Solomon.

The films will be shown at noon Aug. 2 at the City Opera House in downtown Traverse City.

For more information on the Traverse City Film Festival, visit www.traversecityfilmfest.org.