A Night at CUFF - CUNY University Film FestivalA Night at CUFF
CUNY University Film Festival
Like any good festival, this year’s third annual City University Film Festival (CUFF) started off with food. CUFF, which screens films submitted by students from all of the CUNY schools, started in 2008 when Hunter student Daniel Cowen planned to enter a short film in the CUNY Film Festival, only to realize that there was no such thing. The festival was implemented to promote cross campus projects, and has been sponsored by big names such as Thirteen and HBO. As usual, CUFF at Macaulay Honors College was open to the public and free, and included live jazz and refreshments for all who attended to celebrate CUNY-wide film.
This year’s festival consisted of primarily short films, and one longer 30-minute film. The overall theme of the night seemed to be the “green movement.” A great deal of the films had a lot to do with nature and the ideal of living a simplistic life, respecting one’s environment by not wasting energy and becoming more in touch with nature. The short film “A Field Guide to New England Life” by Kalim Armstrong takes this idea to extremes, as we see a lonely young man who chooses to live alone without any electricity or even running water. The films’ reflection of this new cultural phenomenon was not lost on the cinematographers. Only one film was shot in New York, while the others were shot in beautiful locations that used their colorful surroundings to help tell their stories and convey their themes.
Sarah Vanel’s short entitled “Green Arms” tells a love story and uses the setting of an upstate Connecticut cabin, which she explains she visited with her boyfriend, to tell a story of young love. Her use of color and environment throughout the film reflects this overlapping theme, and the couple thrives off of it. As the seasons in the short change, so does the growing passion between the characters, and the surroundings almost become a third character.
One of the most thrilling and plot twisting films of the night lasted only 12 minutes, but left its audience in complete suspense. Ivan Kotevski’s “A Hell of a Night” was filmed in black and white with only two characters in a motel room. Utilizing Albert Hitcock inspired shots and style, this film was a thrilling drama of a middle-aged couple that runs away together and plans to start over — but with just a ring of the telephone, they realize that they have been followed and blackmailed and have only eight minutes to decide between committing suicide or their children being killed. With a shocking twist at the end, this film showed a great deal of refreshing potential and writing that could possibly turn into a feature film career.
The star of the night was a documentary short, but was ironically the longest, running at 30 minutes. Directed by Jayan Cherian, a City College of New York MFA student, “Shape of the Shapeless” won the viewer’s choice award. “Shape of the Shapeless” is a documentary following the life of John Corey, a man who is a carpenter by day, but at night becomes Rose, a striptease drag queen who puts on one hell of a show. The film follows the everyday life, including the night life, of Corey, even through breast implantation surgery. The film brings up the very controversial issue of gender identity, and uses a religious twist by incorporating Hinduism and the use of mixed gender gods to defend the gender crisis that Corey is living in. As we see Corey go through with his daily life, he is mocked and stared at, but when he returns home to his ailing mother we see love, compassion, and even amusement in his life choice. It is quite an interesting and refreshing take on the gender role and identity crises that many people go through in their lives, and the chronicles of Corey’s double life made the documentary all that more allusive and elating.
All in all, the event allowed for filmmakers, students, and the general population to interact and mingle over cupcakes. As the Q & A between the directors and the audience commenced, so did the unraveling of the films, as the audience learned about lengthy production times and film scheduling. All of the films, created so vibrantly by talented students, left the audience expecting to see those names on the silver screen in due time.