by Autumn Bippert
Lights, Camera, Action.
The 16th annual Flatland Film Festival, which took place on Sept. 19 through Sept. 21 at the Louise Hopkins Underwood Center for the Arts in Lubbock, aims to create an appreciation for film and video, while also supporting artists creating these films.
Jonathan Seaborn, a South Plains College graduate, served as chair of the festival.
“It means a lot to the community,” Seaborn said. “Our sponsors that make this possible are LHUCA, Texas Film Commission, Texas Tech Public Media, Texas Tech Department of Journalism & Creative Media Industries, Thomas Jay Harris Institute for Hispanic & International Communication, Noah David Wakefield Studio, Texas Commission on the Arts, Pioneer Pocket Hotel, Premiere Cinemas, City of Lubbock, Civic Lubbock Inc. Griffin Wink, Advertising, Two Docs Brewing Co., Tech Star Graphics Inc., McDougal Realtors, and Walk On’s Bistreaux & Bar.”
Seaborn also explained that David Wakefield made the awards for Judge’s choice and Audience choice.
“They are more than we could have asked for,” Seaborn said. “He did an amazing job and are very appreciative of him.”
Day 1 of the festival included a red carpet and filmmaker meet-and-greet in the LHUCA Firehouse Theatre. Following was the screening of the first feature film and a Q&A, in the Firehouse Theatre, “Building the American Dream,” written and directed by Chelsea Hernandez.
Hernandez said that the film took five years to complete. “Building the American Dream” is her first full-length feature film.
“Building the American Dream” tells the story of several immigrant workers in the Texas construction industry who face hardship and are taking action to change the political system in order to protect workers.
“The idea for the film came in 2010,” Hernandez explained. “I grew up in Austin and was going to school at the University of Texas, and on campus, there was a student luxury condominium being constructed and three workers had fallen to their deaths when the scaffolding they were working on collapsed. That was when I recognized that the people who were building the new buildings that were changing the Austin skyline were experiencing exploitations within the construction industry.”
Day 2’s events began at 6 p.m. at Premiere Cinemas with the first block of short films for the short film competition. The films competed for the Judge’s choice and the Audience’s choice awards. Block one included “Nightshift Screensavers,” “Texas Snow,” “The Beach,” “Hearing the Homeless,” “Abscessed,” “Horrorscope,” “Overnight,” “Revival,” “Made in Heaven,” “As Through Fire,” “Tightly Wound,” “Chicle (Gum),” and “Xctry.”
Following the short films was a screening of the feature film, “Extra Ordinary,” directed by Enda Loughman and Mike Ahern. “Extra Ordinary” is about a woman who has supernatural abilities and must save a possessed girl. A driving instructor, Rose, has a love-hate relationship with her abilities. But she decides to help Martin and his daughter Sarah. The movie was originally released in Ireland, where it was made, and is planned for release in the United States theaters on Sept. 27.
The evening of Day 2 ended with a special screening of the film, “Make Out Party,” and a Q&A with director and writer, Emily Esperanza. “Make Out Party” is a no-budget, high-style comedy that follows three vibrant characters through a day of misadventure as they set out to attend hostess Mary Woah’s Make Out Party.
“I wanted this film to give you an eye cavity,” Esperanza explained about her film. “I wanted it to be so sticky and sweet. I wanted you to feel like you need to brush your eyes afterward.”
Esperanza also explained during the Q&A that she only uses technology for her films that are mid-90’s or older. She also discussed her film inspiration, timeline of the film and how she hopes to one day teach a class on how to make DIY gorilla films.
The final day of the festival began at 11 a.m. at LHUCA with a screening of the feature film, “Jaddoland,” directed by Nadia Shihab, in the Firehouse Theatre. “Jaddoland” explores the meaning of identity and home across three generations of the director’s Iraqi family in Texas. After the screening, there was a Q&A with Shihab.
The third day continued at 4 p.m., with block two of the short films, including, “Studio,” “Dreams and Visions from the Llano Estacado: Salt/Permeable Earth,” “Rosalind,” “Creeping Autumn,” “Dance With Me, Mija,” “Potential,” “No. 19,” “Origin,” “Now You See Me,” “Chrome Girls,” “Tonight,” and “Panic Attack!” shown in the Firehouse Theatre.
Seaborn served as moderator for a Q&A for the short film makers after the second block. The short film makers answered questions about their film inspiration, casting process, their criticism on their final products, and future plans.
Following block two was a panel discussion on Women in Filmmaking, which was moderated by Casey Ellingson. Panelists included Angela Patters, who was the co-editor of “Seadrift,” Emily Esperanza, Shelby Knox, who starred in “The Education of Shelby Knox,” Nadia Shihab, and Lisa Barrera, writer and director of “Chicle (gum).”
Some of the topics that the panel discussed was how they got into their filmmaking career, the difference between being in front of the camera and behind the camera, intended audiences and when beginning a new project begins and ends.
They also gave advice for other women wanting to get into filmmaking.
“To up-and-coming documentary filmmakers, tell the story that is most authentic to you, not the one that you think is going to be the most sensational or the next social justice subject,” said Knox, who attended Lubbock High School. “Stories are what connects us as humans. And if you don’t have sort of a personal stake in the story that you’re telling, it’s going to come off as inauthentic. No matter who you are, where you live, what your identities and identifications are, there is a story that is authentic and is it important to you. Why not tell it? All the people in the world who are saying, ‘Well, why would you be the one to tell it?’ It’s probably oppressors telling you not to. So why not? You be the one to tell that story.”
The final feature film, “Seadrift,” is a documentary about the fatal shooting of a white crabber in 1979 in a Texas fishing village that ignites a maelstrom of hostilities against Vietnamese refugee communities along the Gulf Coast.
The three-day event wrapped up with a closing reception and awards party in the LHUCA Plaza.
The winner of the Judges’s Choice Award for the short film competition was “Tightly Wound,” which is an animated short about a woman recounting her experience living with chronic pelvic pain and how health professionals have failed her, men have rejected her, and shame, anger, and hatred have plagued her body.
There were two winners for the Audience Choice Award, “Made in Heaven” and “Dance With Me, Mija.”