The 2021 Boston International Film Festival, created by Filmmakers Collaborative, took place from November 19-21 at the Regent Theatre in Arlington, Massachusetts. During that time, filmmakers with different levels of experience came together to present their submitted work for the festival’s different categories: student film, student documentary, short film, foreign language film and narrative feature film. I met with three different filmmakers who had presented their work in three of the festival’s different categories.
One of the student filmmakers I met was 10-year old Andrew Chan-Possemato, who created a film with his father, Albert, called “The Butler and the Ball,” which he also directed. This was Andrew’s first experience with the process of filmmaking. The two started writing the screenplay when Andrew was just 7-years old and they also starred in the film as the main characters, Ashton and Bob Chan.
The film is about a young lonely boy named Ashton who wins a contest to become the butler of Bob Chan, a famous and lonely singer. Albert described the influence behind this story as “A 7-year old’s fantasy about winning a contest and getting to meet someone rich and famous and getting to be their friend. And we sort of turned that more into finding two lonely people connecting with each other.”
This kind of talent and interest in creating short-films is not only shown through young student filmmakers such as Andrew, but also through the film festival’s presentation of the works of professional filmmakers. Albert’s response to how he and Andrew would list the Boston International Film Festival in terms of importance to young filmmakers was, “It’s nice that they show films made for children and films by children, as well, so that the children who are aspiring filmmakers have an opportunity to see professionally-made films and to have something to aspire to, as well.” This shows how professionally-made films are important to helping the young filmmakers at the festival learn how to improve their work and become inspired.
One of the film festival’s more professional filmmakers was Max Zampieri, who directed the short-film “Birdhouse.” The film festival’s category of ‘short-film’ applies to filmmakers who are 18 or older and is for films that are under 20 minutes in length, unlike the ones in the ‘student-film’ category, which are allowed to have a runtime of any length.
“Birdhouse” tells the story of a young girl who no longer believes in fairy tales or magic, but must convince her younger sister that magic does exist in order not to hurt her. In the process, she discovers the magic of the world around her. When I met Zampieri, he told me that he created this film with his family and altered his film-making style from his usual fluidity of filmmaking to turning the film into more of an exercise in finding and developing the story through experimentation with the camera. He said that the film “represents a very unique to-the-moment style of filmmaking that makes it very experimental and fluid.”
Ultimately, Zampieri’s experimental filmmaking something that young filmmakers can learn from. He said that he hopes to submit more films for the Boston International Kids Film Festival in the future and may also submit one of the projects that he is currently developing to the festival’s ‘documentary’ category. The ‘student documentary’ category also shows how the film festival is an opportunity to bring filmmakers together not just of different professional levels, but to share the experiences that filmmaking groups had when collaborating on a project.
Ian Kim was one of the filmmakers from the program “The Righteous Conversations Project,” who created the ‘student documentary’ “A Ship Called Lili: The Lillian Trilling Story.” This documentary combines animation with a real-life interview with Holocaust survivor and activist Lillian Trilling, who tells the story of how she escaped from the Warsaw Ghetto, survived a #MeToo experience, worked in a German castle, and her liberation and relocating to America. Ultimately, the film is a combination of the different styles of filmmaking from each of the people that worked on it.
The experience of creating this film was shared with me when I interviewed Kim and he said how “everyone’s gained a lot from it and everyone is using that, combining it with their own stories that they have to tell and so I’m sure that we’ll see many amazing films from my collaborators.” This discussion on the experiences of creating a film is what is discussed at the Boston International Film Festival, primarily during its Q & A session. Therefore, the film festival’s way of bringing filmmakers together to discuss the filmmaking process not only reaches individual filmmakers, but also groups.
The different categories that are designed for different levels of filmmakers, especially the short film by those who are 18 or older and student film categories, ultimately creates a neutral environment between student filmmakers and professionals. This neutral environment is also a family-friendly environment due to the film festival only showcasing family-friendly and kid-friendly films that are appropriate for its young filmmakers and audiences. This, in-turn, makes the film festival stand out due to how there are not many family-friendly or kid-friendly film festivals.
The film festival’s unique environment is due also thanks to the level of engagement it provides to its young filmmakers. I spoke with coordinator Natalia Morgan on what she thinks are its most important aspects. She said, “Since we really focus on incorporating kids and really getting them involved and engaged I think that’s our biggest aspect or most prevalent aspect is the engagement.” This is most prominently shown through how the film festival doesn’t just showcase different films and it ends. It also engages it’s audience and filmmakers with a Q & A as well as workshops on filmmaking and stop-motion animation. This relates to what Natalia Morgan has also said, which is, “I think engagement is probably one of our best aspects and the fact that it’s family-friendly happens to be a really special element.” Therefore, the film festival provides opportunities for both filmmakers and fans of independent short-films to come together in a family-friendly environment that engages its guests.
(For more information on the Boston International Kids Film Festival; visit bikff.org. For a rundown of upcoming events at the Regent Theatre, including this month’s holiday-themed performances, visit regenttheatre.com.)