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Running Water takes festival by storm

By Rucy Cui     4/14/11 7:00pm


The first Rice Student Film Festival was a surprising success. Of the 35 submissions to the contest, 12 were chosen to be slated amongst four categories — short film, animation, fiction and documentary. The best in each category won $500, and the best of the night won $1,000, as judged by a panel that included Crystal Sanchez Benavides from the Houston Arts Alliance, Marian Luntz from the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, past Student Association President Selim Sheikh, past Graduate Student Association President Corrine Allen and Vice President of Public Affairs Linda Thrane. There were also $500 awards for Best Rice Related Film and People's Choice.

"[All the entries] had something special," Thrane said, "[like] a great story, great acting, great technique, great music, a salute to Rice or humor."

Several students participated in multiple entries, such as powerhouses Adrien Pellerin, Austin Lipinski, Edward Tung and Gabi Chennisi. Students of all disciplines participated, be it architecture, engineering, computer science or linguistics. It was pleasantly surprising when Lipinski, a chemical engineering major, took home $2,500 in prizes for Running Water, a documentary about Rice alumnus Robert Flatt.

Now, to be sure, I'm no film expert. I don't always know what's best, despite how much I might think I do. (This is evidenced by the fact that I still enjoy meaningless fluff like A Walk to Remember. What can I say?) So stay turned for some thoughts on all the entries, kick back, and enjoy the free popcorn — yeah, the Rice Student Film Festival gave away free popcorn. Don't you wish you'd have come?

Short Film Category

Save the World (Honorable Mention) – Adrien Pellerin, Austin Lipinski and Gabi Chennisi

This entry, along with its cousin Can I?, was first created for Feel Your Boobies, a breast cancer non-profit organization whose mission is, according to their website, "to create an annual reminder campaign that utilizes unexpected and unconventional methods to remind young women to feel their boobies." A lightning quick script includes everything from the pronunciation of the word Sudoku to the scraggly-voiced villain Dr. Apocalypto, all in under a minute. Wiess College sophomore Emily Nichol is especially funny as Lindsey, who demonstrates a proper breast examination amidst several gawking boys at the very end.

Can I? (Runner Up) – Adrien Pellerin, Austin Lipinski and Gabi Chennisi

Although not as ambitious as its predecessor, this entry is short, punchy and to the point. The lighting is professional, set up to capture everything about a lone couple. After a few moments of agony, he begs to "feel them." The following camera angle, which focuses on his expression and then her cleavage in one shot, is great.

Continuous Postcard (Best Short Film) – Brantley Highfill

This entry is composed of 2,467 photographs strung together to mimic the effect of stop motion animation. I would call it more of a mood piece than anything else, with the camera following a stylishly outfitted man as he embarks on his day, ending in a historic-looking locale the likes of Greece or Rome. "Memory isn't what was but what continues to be," he writes, and I agree — the glorious thing about this short is definitely its transportative quality, the pull that everyone in the theater experiences to conquer "what continues to be."

Animation Category

A Nutty Little Love Story (Honorable Mention) – Sara Hieb

Stop motion animation is used in this entry to tell the story of how Stacy Stachio and Wally Nut first met and fell in love. Hieb manages to accurately convey emotions such as shyness and yearning amongst her nut population by having them fidget in a way that's both familiar and human. Their gestures might be small, but they suggest a deep range of emotions.

Photoshop Creator (Runner Up) – Edward Tung

My personal favorite out of the category, this entry follows the creation of Tung himself if he were to be uploaded onto Photoshop. The sound effects are particularly spot on, as he clicks back and forth in the program to explore options ranging from his hair (with just the right ratio of length on the sides and top of his face) to his IQ (high but not to the point where his virtual self needs enormous glasses) to his profession (started out as a lawyer and then decided to go for an architect). The short ends with him stepping out of Photoshop and flashing a smile as if to say cheekily, "Ta-da! How do you like the finished product?"

Road Trip (Best Animation) – Edward Tung

This entry, also submitted by Tung, is less whimsical than his first effort but just as well-constructed. He uses basic animation to chronicle his character's adventures on a cross-country road trip to Houston. A lot of questionable things start to happen, including an octopus suddenly squirting out of the motorcycle's exhaust pipe and deterring a man in a ski mask — a reference to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre — as his character speeds away, but it all adds to the slightly offbeat humor of the short.

Fiction Category

The Spaghetto (Honorable Mention) – Gabi Chennisi

This entry is a tongue-in-cheek portrayal of a homeless man who finally earns enough money to take himself out to dinner. The music is especially appropriate and jaunty, as the camera follows him in the short's strongest moments ,and everyone in the theater is privy to his meticulous preparations, such as shaving in the public fountain.

Ivan Ivanovich (Runner Up) – Joe Dwyer

In this entry, the character Alan, for reasons not really explained, has decided to start spying on American radio correspondence during the Cold War. He uncovers a massive secret that they've been hiding — what they've been intercepting from Sputnik is actually proof that the Russians sent a woman into space first. For such an ambitious idea, Ivan Ivanovich is masterfully shot and directed and also manages to stay accurate as a piece of work set decades ago.

Oh My God (Best Fiction) – Adrien Pellerin and Gabi Chennisi

This entry is a very wry look at religion and how far one set of parents will go in order to make sure their son keeps with the family's view on Christianity. The parents begin sending their doubtful son emails signed "Heavenly Father" ranging in importance, with the occasional reminder about the mother's birthday but also a warning to the son to stop putting his cross under his bed. However, a mysterious discrepancy has them reconsidering their own beliefs.

Documentary Category

Rice Rugby (Honorable Mention) – Austin Lipinski

This entry follows the rugby team at the height of its season. It was definitely refreshing to see a lower profile sport featured in a documentary. Lipinski did a beautiful job with his camerawork, capturing everything from the sweat dripping down a single player's face to the blades of grass crunching under his feet.

Gard Dog's Yard (Runner Up) – Jenna Kripal and Ryan Oringer

Although this entry would've benefited from a better camera, the look into its subject's life, comedian John Gard, is simply fascinating. He cleans and installs carpets by morning and then performs on a stage amidst roars of laughter by night.

Running Water (Best Documentary, Best Rice Related Film, People's Choice, and Grand Prize) – Austin Lipinski

This entry swept the night's awards, and it certainly deserved all the praise. According to Lipinski, he first met the documentary's subject, Robert Flatt, in the Wiess College commons and was absolutely captivated by his photography. The shots that Flatt has taken upstage a lot of the camerawork. This entry both informs and inspires. Jones College sophomore Jennifer Livingstone is particularly notable for her narration, with her soft, composed voice that rises in pitch and emotion at the most beautiful instances in the documentary.

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