BU Today

Arts & Entertainment

Next Stop Hollywood

Redstone Film Festival returns on Tuesday

The Redstone Film Festival is held each year at Boston University, but past finalists and winners know that participation means much more than on-campus fame. The festival can be the launching pad for a career in the film industry.

Last year’s winner, Josh Safdie (COM’07), went on to have a short film featured in Slamdance, the indie alternative to the renowned Sundance Film Festival. A film by finalist Todd Davis (COM’05), In the Tradition of My Family, garnered a third-place win at Redstone, took first prize at Redstone West, the Los Angeles version of the competition, and has since been featured at festivals in Tel Aviv, Munich, and New York. And one of this year’s featured filmmakers, Chris Messina (COM’06), won the Best Independent Experimental Film award at the New England Film and Video Festival for Nightlights, which explores night on the Charles River.

The 27th annual Redstone Festival —  rescheduled because of this year’s Valentine’s Day snowstorm — takes place on Tuesday, April 24, and features movies from a variety of genres — documentary, experimental, horror, and traditional narrative. The festival, sponsored by Sumner Redstone (Hon.’94), CEO of Viacom, begins at 7 p.m. at the Tsai Performance Center and is free and open to the public.

BU Today
spoke to several finalists about their films. Click the titles below to watch clips from each film.

ABAJEE, Maureen Bharoocha (COM’07)
It’s not every film that has a stunt rooster. But it’s helpful when there’s a cockfight at the center of your narrative. And so it is with ABAJEE, the story of a young Pakistani boy named Omer, his relationship with his father, and the pet rooster that he naively believes could be a champion in the ring.

The title of the film, which was shot entirely on location in Karachi, means “dad” in Urdu. The plot is loosely based on a story Bharoocha’s father, who is of Pakistani, Burmese, and Indian descent, tells about his own pet rooster. “The movie is also about Omer’s realization that his father still loves him,” says Bharoocha who graduated in January with an M.F.A. in film and has since worked as an intern on the set of CSI and in the editing room for the upcoming movie King of California, starring Michael Douglas and Evan Rachel Wood.

“This film was a family affair,” she says, and indeed it was. While she did the shooting, her brother handled sound, and a cousin played Omer. Meanwhile, Bharoocha’s dad played the father, her grandmother had the grandmother role, and various cousins took on tasks ranging from script translator to rooster wrangler. “Yeah, there’s only one last name on all the credits,” says Bharoocha.

Bingo Nation, Stephanie Stender (COM’07)
Growing up in Middlefield, Conn., film production graduate student Stephanie Stender spent every Saturday night at the local bingo hall. Her grandmother’s devotion to the game, as well as Stender’s childhood memories of sneaking the occasional card to play, prompted her to make the documentary Bingo Nation.   

“The film is essentially about the friendship that has formed among three women through years of playing bingo together,” says Stender, “and it’s also about the joy and heartache of the game. I chose the topic partly because I think part of me misses those Saturday nights at the bingo hall.”

Bingo Nation began as a class project. “I wanted the viewer to get to know Joanna, Maria, and Yvonne not only through their love of the game, but also through their affection for one another,” Stender says.

Stender is happiest when she has a camera in hand. “Everything just seems to click,” she says. “I love allowing an audience to connect to someone they have never met in real life by expanding their perceptions.”

Bingo Nation debuted last summer at the Plymouth Independent Film Festival.    

Hair: A Conversation, Shola Ajayi (COM’07)

Little White Flowers
, Chris Messina (COM’06)

When Chris Messina set out to make a horror film, he didn’t look to any modern-day masters of the slasher genre. Instead, he read the works of 19th-century writers Washington Irving and Edgar Allan Poe. The result, Little White Flowers, is a psychological thriller whose main character’s troubled mind creates much of his torment.

“It’s about a guy who flees the city and goes out to the middle of nowhere but can’t escape what he’s running from,” Messina says. “It’s about him wrestling with his own problems.”

Little White Flowers is the second of Messina’s films to appear at the Redstone Festival; the first, Melo, focused on a teenage boy’s exploration of life alongside a train track. Melo was made in Messina’s Production 1 class at COM and won the 2004 Eastman Scholarship competition, which is sponsored by the Kodak Student Filmmaker Program and carries a $1,250 award.

In his two years at COM, Messina experimented with both narrative and experimental filmmaking, and Little White Flowers is his return to the former genre. The film was completed in early January, and so far the response from his fellow filmmakers has been positive. “It will be interesting to see how a larger audience reacts,” Messina says. “It’s not a totally straightforward crowd-pleaser.”

Star Spangled Eyes, Henry Hughes (COM’06)

Uncommon Art, Ashley Kennedy (CFA’06)
By selling art he made in a church hall, Dale Marcia went from homelessness to living in an apartment. His journey off the streets is the subject of Ashley Kennedy’s film Uncommon Art. When Kennedy saw the work that Marcia and other homeless artists were creating, she was moved. “I thought that if I could become close enough to one or more of them, it could make a tremendous story of hope and inspiration,” she says.

Her interest in documenting homeless artists was sparked by a friend’s article on Common Art, a program run by Ecclesia Ministries to give area homeless people a chance to develop their artistic talents.

“Dale was one of three artists that I followed closely over that period of time,” she says. “His story harbored the most life-changing inspiration, which is why I ultimately made the film about him.”

Every Wednesday for nine months, Kennedy carried her camera, tripod, and sound equipment to Emmanuel Church on Boston’s Newbury Street. When she wasn’t filming, she made art with the program participants. Still, it took time for people to feel comfortable in front of her camera.

“Probably the biggest challenge was balancing my intense personal involvement with the artists at Common Art with the fact that I was filming them,” Kennedy says. “That was a strange equilibrium to conquer, because I had to be — and wanted to be — very involved with them, otherwise they definitely would not have accepted me into their community.”

Woman on the Moon
, Aviv Rubinstien (COM’08)

Aviv Rubinstien dreads having to describe the basis of his six-minute film. “It’s a movie about movies,” he says simply. But the concept for the film is anything but simple. It is based on the persistence of vision theory, which is a visual form of memory where the brain retains an image for a little longer than it is actually there. “It’s the process that film is based on, and that’s the game that I play,” he says.

Rubinstien, the youngest finalist in the competition, filmed a man and a woman in a room at different times and then alternated the frames in the final product. Displaying the alternating series of film images in quick succession gives the illusion of motion.

“The result, because of the persistence of vision theory, is the illusion that these two flickering bodies appear in the same room at the same time, but can never touch,” he says. “I used this method because I wanted to make a sad ballet — two people unable to be with each other, because they are just 1/30th of a second out of phase.”

Rubinstien made the film in his film production class. “I wasn’t sure if it would work, but I was anxious to do it,” he says. “I couldn’t have the concept floating around in my head for any longer.”

Chris Berdik (cberdik@bu.edu), Meghan Noe (mdorney@bu.edu), Catherine Santore (csantore@bu.edu), Jessica Ullian (jullian@bu.edu), and Vicky Waltz (vwaltz@bu.edu) contributed to this report.