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New Name, New Focus for CBUS’s Oldest Film Festival

Hope Madden Hope Madden New Name, New Focus for CBUS’s Oldest Film FestivalStill of animated short "Wayward Kite."
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Big changes are afoot for the oldest film festival in the U.S.

Its facelift begins with a name change. Columbus International Film + Video Festival is now officially Columbus International Film & Animation Festival, a change Executive Director Jeremy Henthorn feels keeps pace with a burgeoning artistic community in Columbus and elsewhere.

“The words ‘video’ and ‘film’ have kind of merged in a lot of ways,” he says. “The biggest change had to do with us taking a look at the animation program at CCAD and how much it’s grown, and looking in the community and seeing how much independent animation has grown. And we thought it made a lot of sense, us working with the school and just seeing it out in the community, this growing independent animation community. We just took it in that direction.”

Henthorn saw an immediate and positive response to the change.

“Our submissions in animation tripled,” he says. “A lot of it was local, some of it was documentary animation and we’d never seen that before. Some of it was LGBT animation. So I think in a lot of ways we were right, there is this growing independent animation scene.”

This abundance has led to some interesting possibilities, according to Henthorn, who calls it a “fun mixtape of adult animation and kids’ animation.”

Aside from a strong animated component, the 2018 lineup boasts a larger program of shorts than previous fests.

“It always has to do with the submissions,” Henthorn explains. “When we started looking at the shorts, there were just a lot of really strong films, and we had these opportunities to put these programs together that made sense. An entire set of Ohio documentary shorts—we’ve never had that, where we had so many people in Ohio making Ohio docs where we could program an entire two hours of that. So, a lot of it had to do with the quality of the shorts we were getting that we felt could fit into a program that audiences would be interested in.”

A theme particular to the 2018 lineup is that of human trafficking, which figures prominently in two films: The Turn Out and KNOW Human Trafficking, a 4-part documentary.

How did this theme emerge?

“We are a submission festival,” Henthorn says. “Because of that, we get to take a look at what artists are talking about out in the world. Those pieces specifically came from Ohio, and when we just sat down and started to look at it, we said, ‘This is something that is on the artists’ minds in Columbus. This is something they were trying to shine a new light on, trying to show a side of this issue that maybe you don’t see.’”

It’s a crime that weighs on Ohio, the state with the 4th highest number of sex trafficking cases in the country.

“They’re trying to show the real world what damage trafficking does,” Henthorn says of the filmmakers. “I think there’s a real sea change going on, and artists tend to be at the forefront of that, and that’s why we decided to highlight that.”

In these films and others, Henthorn is seeing a real growth in the talent in Ohio filmmakers.

“One of the things I’m probably most proud of this year is the level of Ohio filmmaking that’s coming out,” he says. “The features that are playing have Ohio roots. Many of the shorts are either from people from Ohio or were made in Columbus.”

It’s no surprise to Henthorn.

“This has been a trend since I started, but it just is increasing,” he says. “The amount of Ohio filmmaking that is going on is pretty amazing, and I think it keeps getting better and better each year. If people are interested in what is going on in Ohio, if you go to this festival, in nearly every single category you’ll see that.”

The Columbus International Film & Animation Festival is presented by Columbus College of Art & Design.

The festival runs from Thursday, March 22 Saturday, March 24.

Locations include CCAD (60 Cleveland Ave.) and the Drexel Theatre (2254 E. Main Street).

For tickets and more information, visit columbusfilmfestival.org.

Read more from Hope at MADDWOLF and listen to her weekly movie review podcast, THE SCREENING ROOM.

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