America’s Longest Running Film Festival Returns to Columbus

Hope Madden Hope Madden America’s Longest Running Film Festival Returns to Columbus
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This week marks the beginning of the Columbus International Film + Video Festival, a two-week procession of brand new films from all around the world. Also known as the Chris Awards, it is the nation’s longest running film festival, returning to Columbus for the 61st time.

“In 1950 a group of progressive educators at Ohio State got together, and they decided that film would be a great way to educate the community and show people things outside of their normal experience,” explains Susan Halpern, the festival’s executive director for the last decade. “In 1952, they started showing movies.”

“It was so amazing that it was here,” she says. “Columbus has a lot of appealing and interesting things that no one outside of Columbus would ever think we would have. But the festival is really well known around the world, actually.”

Filmmakers the world over can enter their pieces in the competitive festival. Awards are given, and a full slate of screenings blaze across screens throughout Columbus.

In the last ten years, Helpern has overseen a change in the program that makes these public screenings more accessible. “I really sort of pushed the public screenings forward. It was always open to the public, but it was also very industry-oriented. But I said, ‘No, no. This is about these great films and the public needs to see these amazing films that, really, you can’t see anywhere else.’”

Those films run the gamut: features and shorts, documentary, narrative and animation.

Says Halpern, “We have been very documentary heavy, historically. When you go back to the beginning of the event, they were educators, and they were interested in showing the world to people. But lately, we’ve gotten a lot more narrative works – some really amazing narrative pieces, and we just have to show them.”

Some even blend genres, she says.

“Our best of festival winner this year is a really interesting film, but it’s really hard to pin down, except to say that it’s beautiful and amazing,” she says. “It’s this brilliant film. It’s sort of a narrative, but it’s a documentary, but it’s abstract. It’s called Tokyo Waka, and it’s a poem about a city, its people, and 20,000 crows.”

The film screens during the festival’s centerpiece, Movies + Mead, and the filmmakers will be on hand to accept their award and talk about the film. According to Halpern, the event is the cheapest and best date night to be found in Columbus.

“For $15, you get a great movie and one of Columbus’s best parties, with live music, great local food, Stella Artois beer and Brothers Drake mead,” she says. The awards night celebration takes place Saturday, November 16, from 7 – 11pm at the Columbus College of Art & Design’s Canzani Center (60 Cleveland Ave.).

Halpern calls CCAD a wonderful home for a large portion of the festival, and says the partnership has even influenced their programming.

“Since we landed at CCAD, we’ve really aggressively looked for animation because, of course, CCAD has a wonderful animation program. So, we have a Saturday Morning Animation, and we also have an evening of adult animation.”

The festival branches out to other venues across town as well, though, beginning with a screening that has Halpern very excited.

“On the 7th we’re at the Gateway Film Center (1550 North High) to show Beny: Back to the Wild. It’s about this woman who is basically the Jane Goodall of bonobos. It’s an amazing film, it’s gorgeous, and we’re really happy to have it,” she says. The screening is co-sponsored by the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, who will bring animal friends to the reception before the film.

“It’s only $5,” she says, “and it’s going to be really, really fun.”

Once again, the festival teams up this year with Stonewall Columbus for a screening at Studio 35 Cinema and Drafthouse (3055 Indianola).

“We’re doing a festival within a festival,” explains Halpern. “The official title is LGBTFEST at the Columbus International Film + Video festival. We’re showing G.B.F with Megan Mullally at Studio 35 on Sunday night. It’s about gay best friends, and it should really be fun, and that’s only $5.”

The festival hits other locations as well, including Wild Goose Creative, Brothers Drake and the Drexel. As far as Halpern is concerned, this is something that could only happen in Columbus.

“Only in Columbus can I do this,” she says. “Only in Columbus could you find this kind of generosity. People donate their time, they donate the theater space, their food. The jurors are incredibly generous with their time. We have alcohol sponsors. You couldn’t do this anywhere else.”

Full Schedule:

  • Thursday, November 7, 7 – 10 pm: Beny: Back to the Wilds, Gateway Film Center, $5
  • Sunday, November 10, 8 – 10 G.B.F., Studio 35 Cinema and Drafthouse, $5
  • Tuesday, November 12, 7-9 Continental, Wild Goose Creative (2491 Summit St.), $5
  • Tuesday, November 12, 8-9 Animation 4 Adults, Brothers Drake (26 E. 5th Ave.), admission is free but donations are encouraged
  • Wednesday, November 13, 6:30 – 9:30, Shorts at the LGBTFEST, Canzani Center, Columbus College of Art and Design, $5
  • Thursday, November 14, 8 – 10 pm, Award Winning Student Short Films Showcase, Canzani Center, Columbus College of Art and Design, $5
  • Friday, November 15, 8 – 10 pm, Heart of Sky, Heart of Earth, Canzani Center, CCAD, $5
  • Saturday, November 16, 10 – 11am, Saturday Morning Cartoons for Kids, Canzani Center, CCAD
  • Saturday, November 16, 7 – 11pm, Movies + Mead and Tokyo Waka, Canzani Center, CCAD, $15 for 1 or $25 for 2
  • Sunday, November 17, 2 – 3:30, In Organic We Trust, Studio 35 Cinema and Drafthouse, admission is free but donations are encouraged
  • Sunday, November 17, 7 – 10 pm, Blue is the Warmest Color, Drexel Theatre (2254 E. Main), $9 (this film is rated NC-17).

For more information, visit www.chrisawards.org.

A full slate of movie reviews is available on my website www.maddwolf.com. You can also follow me on Twitter @maddwolf and like me on Facebook at facebook.com/MaddWolfColumbus.

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