Lake Champlain International Film Festival

Lake Champlain International Film Festival

By Ashley LeVasseur, SR Fall 2015 Editorial Assistant

I was fortunate enough to catch a few films at the Lake Champlain International Film Festival that ran from November 13th  to the 15th . This year was the Festival’s second year, again hosted at The Strand Center for the Arts Theatre. Being a student, I was able to get into the festival for free; however, the event had a number of ways community members could have paid. It was 5 dollars for a ‘block’ fee. A block of films was roughly two hours of shorts and various activities. The two blocks I went to were the ‘Opening Reception,’ free to everyone, and ‘It’s Complicated.’

The Opening Reception contained five small films followed by a question and answer session hosted by Julia and Michael Devine. Those names look familiar? Michael Devine is a part of our staff! As the Opening Reception began, the theatre hushed. The place was packed, I saw many of my community friends as well as most of my professors there.

film fest

The first film was called Autumn Leaves by Saman Hosseinpuor. A cute short, running no more than 4 minutes, about a young girl enjoying the autumn leaves on her way to school. What I enjoyed about this piece was the culture shown. Iranian culture is something I am not exposed to in everyday life and this gave me a small glimpse into the daily lives of Iranian communities.

The second film was called Grass Farm Chicken by Simon Conroy. This was based locally at a farm called Reber Rock Farm. The audience followed the farmers throughout the farm’s routine. We learned a bit about how the chicken were harvested and met a rather sassy horse. This film was enjoyable from how it let the farm tell the story itself, rather than having an narrator explain, the images were enough. I felt there was a respect for the audience and I appreciated that.

The next film was a very special treat. Mountain Lake PBS allowed Paul Larson and the Strand to show small clips from the upcoming documentary:  Selections from Arts in Exile: Tibetan Treasures in Small Town America.  As a local of Plattsburgh New York, I did not know we had such a large amount of Tibetan refugees. Watching these clips helped me understand local history and made me realize how special it is to live in such a welcoming community.  I highly recommend watching this film once it comes out.

The fourth film, called Manhatta by Paul Strand and Charles Sheeler, focused on old footage of Manhattan. The film showed tops of roofs with smoke blooming upwards and ships docking into ports with people commuting from Brooklyn. The sixty-five shots film was relaxing with the selected music from Lawrence Dolan, remastered for the ten minute short.

The final piece in the Opening Reception block was called Burgh by Julia and Michael Devine. This short black and white film showed bits of the downtown Plattsburgh area, snippets of yearly festivals, and the community involved in various other enjoyable activities. Many artistic aspects of Plattsburgh were highlighted. This film reminded me about the enjoyable places to explore in Plattsburgh. Really makes you want to get outside and learn about the magical places small towns have to offer. On a deeper level, the film is not simply about the town, but rather the connection people have with one another.  

julia and michael

The Q&A that followed was quick. Less than ten questions asked in total, and I only wrote down the funny parts. Michael Devine explained why and how he and his wife created “Burgh.”  He was highly influenced by a collection of poems, Accepting the Disaster: Poems by Joshua Mehigan. The Devines even used quotes from the book, for example, “Nothing ever changes.. until it does.” At the end of the Q&A, like a good English teacher does, Michael Devine gave homework to the crowd.  He told the audience to go check out the new mosaic displayed in downtown Plattsburgh, inspired by Tibet culture, and touch it (later he added hold hands as you do this but I really think that was a joke). I’m not sure if he was being literal. A group of my friends and I did look at the mosaic. As we walked past it, in the rain, in the dark, its colorful tiles still shined brightly. I think next year, if the film festival happens again, I’ll put aside more time to enjoy what it has to offer.  I want to thank The Strand Center for the Arts for hosting such an amazing event.  It was a blast.