Arlington International Film Festival
Rain trickled down the glittering marquee of Arlington’s Capitol Theater as the Arlington International Film Festival prepared to kick off its sixth year with four days of culturally diverse independent film in late October. The festival consists of three parts: The annual Student Poster Contest, the High School Student Filmmaker Program and the films themselves; founder J. Alberto Guzman and executive director April Ranck have a great appreciation of both film and community.
“We believe that our annual international film festival highlights core values and aspirations we share in common with our culturally diverse neighbors and with all members of the global human family,” Ranck said. Film selections range from student’s short films to the story of an American coach thrown into coaching theChinese Basketball Association’s Foshan Long Lions. The film selections, chosen by jurors both local and abroad, display a wide range of content allowing for diverse dialogue.
Paper Lanterns, directed by Boston local Barry Frechette, opened the second night of the festival. The film follows Japanese historian Mr. Shigeaki Mori and his quest to contact the 12 families of American prisoners of war that were killed in Hiroshima. It delves into the life of Mr. Mori and the painstaking research he conducted over 20 years. Bringing in the perspective of the lost American airmen’s families creates a stark juxtaposition from that of Japanese culture. The heartwarming welcome of the families by Mr. Mori and the kindness shown by both was, for the audience, incredibly touching. Frechette, a native of Lowell, works in Boston in advertising and had never made a feature length film before. His sensitivity to the subject and interweaving of perspectives is inspiring and thoughtful. As Ranck said of Paper Lanterns, “[It] is indeed an extremely healing film.”
Clarence, directed by Kristin Catalano, was next. The film follows the colorful personality that is 85-year-old World War II Vet, Clarence Garrett. Garrett’s driving purpose throughout the film is to finally finish school and receive his bachelor’s degree from University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. Many health issues arose during his time back at school leaving the audience to root for Garrett and see him accomplish his life’s ambition. The film creates both a sense of anticipation as well as a healthy dose of comedy by highlighting Garrett’s unique outlook on life. Asked what she would like audiences to take away from the film, Catalano stated, “If you put it into your mind that you can do it than you can do anything.” Clarence shows audiences how one man’s determination and sense of hope can transfer to others and create a stronger sense of community.
In addition to feature films, this year’s festival also concentrated on the importance of education by including young filmmakers. When the festival started, it only received a few entries for the High School Student Filmmaker Program; the AIFF now receives applications for student films from across the country. This program allows young voices to be heard as well as provides a place for young filmmakers to discuss their craft with both audiences and other filmmakers. “It is fascinating to hear the voices of young people; their films reflect what is important to them and vary widely in content,” Ranck said. “It is really fulfilling to see students from very different backgrounds sharing technical tips to the intimacy of subject matter.” The AIFF grew throughout 2016 and plans to continue that progress as it heads into next year. A collaboration with Wapikoni Mobile, a non-profit based out of Quebec, proved to be successful. The non-profit focuses on filmmaking as a tool for creating jobs and learning opportunities for Aboriginal youth in Canada. The festival also partnered with the University of Massachusetts, Brandeis, the Weatherhead Center and Harvard University’s Native American Program to create a four-part Mobile Conference. These collaborations have allowed the festival to work with filmmakers and create an opportunity for a variety of voices to be heard.
It plans to continue that progress in the upcoming year by offering workshops for students in Boston during the summer that will conclude with a major debut screening of the work created. The Arlington International Film Festival is a wonderful way to discover new voices in film and to expand one’s understanding of culture and community. To keep up with their latest developments, visit http://www.aiffest.org.