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Head of the Class

Head of the Class

In my 16 years of working on the Florida Film Festival–the first five as Selection Committee member and the last eleven as Programming Director–I have never seen such a dominant showing of formidable talent from one film school as we have this year. Those of you who attended Sundance are probably already aware of the extraordinary artistry displayed by Columbia University students and alumni, since 10 of the 71 shorts selected out of more than 4000 submissions all came from this one institution–remarkable!

Well that trend continues at this year’s Florida Film Festival, ready to launch in just three weeks. While the numbers aren’t quite as staggering as the Sundance percentages, 6 out of the 27 shorts in the American Independent Narrative Shorts Competition (selected from over 600 entries in that category) are all from Columbia. Yet only three played in Park City: Lilah Vandenburgh’s BITCH, Sophie Barthes’ HAPPINESS, and Moon Molson’s POP FOUL. Our other three are just as good, yet didn’t make it into the Sundance 10: Tobin Addington’s DANCING GROUND, Benjamin Gray’s THE HUNTER, and Julia Kots’ NATURALIZED.

Not only that, but had the filmmakers struck a 35mm print like they indicated on their submission forms, we would also be playing two more outstanding works: Ian Olds’ BOMB and C.C. Webster’s CIVIL WAR. Unfortunately, by the time we found out that they were actually video only, our video shorts programs were all locked and confirmed. But it easily could have been 8 out of the 27 instead of 6, and either way it’s unprecedented. And what’s even more impressive is how diverse this group of films really is, with nothing really in common except their excellence.

There are a lot of fine film schools in this country, including a few right here in Florida, but what this group of student filmmakers from Columbia University has achieved can only be described as stunning. Hopefully you’ll get to experience these fine films for yourselves.


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