Student film festival bigger and broader than ever

Stewart Oksenhorn
What Are You Afraid Of? a film by students at Glenwood Springs High School, shows on the Saturday night program of the Rocky Mountain Student Filmfest.

While 30 films vie for prizes in this weekend’s Rocky Mountain Student Filmfest, at least two competitors are already prize-winners.”State Dreams,” a documentary of the Basalt High School soccer team’s 2004 season, by Basalt High student Matt Hobbs, earned top honors in the student film category at Aspen Shortsfest’s Local Filmmakers Competition last month. “Mastication Sensation,” a humorous and pointed look at the food production cycle by Basalt High students Jordan Bacheldor, Matt Hobbs, Mario Loya, Nima Noori, Wade Vitany and Ari Wolters, earned an award of merit at the Aspen Art Museum’s Valley Kids 2005 exhibit (which runs through Sunday).

“State Dreams” tracks the Basalt High soccer team throughout a triumphant season, culminating in the state championship game against Salida High School. Directed by Matt Hobbs, the film presents a multifaceted look at the squad and its quest to be the first team to represent Basalt High as state champions. There is the expected on-field action, done at a high level of professionalism. And the way “State Dreams” captures the sense of determination and pride that seems foremost on the players’ minds give a consistent theme through the film’s 18 minutes.But what gives “State Dreams” its extra dimension are scenes like the bus pulling out of Basalt to the championship game in Denver. Basaltines of all stripes line Highway 82 with banners and cheers; cars trail alongside the bus with placards and waving fans. Such touches demonstrate that the soccer team wasn’t the only one giving a major effort throughout the season.”Mastication Sensation” is akin to the popular documentary “Super Size Me” in its offbeat pokes at Big Food. But its jabs are more ambiguous and in their way more clever than those in “Super Size Me,” in which star/director Morgan Spurlock went on a 30-day, all-McDonald’s diet. “Mastication Sensation” uses visual imagery and songs, almost in the manner of an extended music video, to reveal the process of turning produce into mass-produced, shelf-ready food items.

Those two award-winners – both of which show on Saturday night’s program – are good indicators of the vast range of material on tap at the Rocky Mountain Student Filmfest. The festival – called the Valleywide Student Filmfest its previous five years – is bigger and broader than ever, with submissions coming from as far as Steamboat Springs and Grand Junction. With the broadened geographic reach has come a wider selection of genres and themes.”You kind of get everything,” said Elizabeth Winn, a Basalt High School senior and the Filmfest’s student production manager, whose job description includes everything from soliciting films to organizing the five-member judging panel. “The purpose of the festival is to let people express themselves. Some make you think about things; some are just meant to make you laugh. And this year we have several documentaries, which is unusual.”That latter category includes not only “State Dreams” and “Mastication Sensation,” but also “En Realidad.” The film has Anglo students from a Spanish class and Latino students learning English looking from each other’s points of view on cultural differences.

On the dramatic side is “Jeremy,” a submission from Steamboat Springs about the loss of a family member and thoughts of suicide. Also from Steamboat, but with a far different sensibility, is the partly animated film “Crazy As Sane,” about which Winn says, “there is no message. It’s just very funny. You could compare it to a Monty Python film.”The Filmfest earns points for professionalism as well as stylistic range. Winn, who has been involved with the festival since her freshman year, is thus ineligible to have her film screened this year. But “Dial 1-900,” a film about judgment, which she made with four other students, will show at next year’s festival. (Made as a high school project, it qualifies under festival rules even though Winn expects to be studying film and communications at the University of Denver next year.)The festival features 30 films, selected from 40 entries, with 15 films showing each night.Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is


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