Guest appearances nab viewers' attention like a magnet every time.
In our weekly FLEFF meetings, it is entertaining to see our class visibly perk up when we are told a speaker is coming to talk with us about the program. Hearing seasoned staff members talk about their experiences and anticipations for the rapidly approaching season is a delight and kick of adrenalin for what’s in store.
One of our first speakers was Julia Tulke, a Visual and Cultural Studies graduate student at the University of Rochester, who came to speak to us on topics from her graduate work and having to drastically alter her dissertation due to COVID-19 to her work with Professor Zimmerman through FLEFF and other projects and publications. I was lucky enough to follow up with Julia to hear more about her experiences with FLEFF.
Julia served as the Graduate Assistant to the Co-Curators for FLEFF for both the 2018 and 2019 season working on the ground to assist with events. She shared with me that out of the spectrum of programs she’s helped with, the original productions of silent films were her favorite. During these events a silent film is accompanied by a live score by a local band, and prefaced with a performative introduction delivered by IC acting professor Cynthia Henderson. One particularly memorable installment was the 2018 screening of Entre Los Hielos De Las Islas Orcadas, a 1928 Argentinian documentary tracking an Antarctic expedition, screened in collaboration with the Museo del Cine Archive in Buenos Aires. The stunning visuals of Entre los Hielos were perfectly complemented by the atmospheric sounds of the Ithaca-based Cloud Chamber Orchestra an multisensory assemblage perfectly rounded off by Henderson’s powerful performance.
This combination of a global film with artists from the local area is emblematic of the community bridging that the festival embodies in almost every aspect throughout its events.
As for this upcoming festival, we talked for a bit on the way that online platforms have broadened the accessibility of film festivals in general and FLEFF in particular. Previously, FLEFF audiences may have been limited by the regional scope of the festival to the Finger lakes and general Upstate New York area, but this year’s virtual delivery affords a broader involvement at all scales.
Julia also talked about the ways in which her work on this year's festival has been very exciting and welcoming to new ideas. Festival producers Ann Michel and Phil Wilde have approached the task of mounting a virtual festival with a sense of experimentation and playfulness, pushing at the limits of what online platforms such as Zoom can do. The evocative phrase “We are the Screen,” coined by Ann Michel at an early production meeting has become the chorus of this endeavor.
As we were nearing the end of our conversation, as a freshman facing the occasionally daunting tasks of a staff member, I asked what she would do to go back and tell her past self working on her first FLEFF event. Her reply was a reassurance in how the FLEFF community—of current and former IC faculty and students, along with artists and scholars from the wider Ithaca community—had organically embraced her.
In these times it is reassuring that familiar faces will be able to see one another that keeps the festival alive It is a homecoming to many, and this year has the chance to bring in many new members to make the community even larger and share in common interests of film and invoking discussion on innovative ideas.