Exploring Castleton’s International Film Festival

The quiet hum of Castleton students and community members filled the first floor of Stafford in early March. The chatter of anticipation for the film ahead subsides as people choose their seats in Herrick Auditorium, prepared for the detailed cinematography they were about to watch. 

This year’s International Film Festival took over Herrick for a four-night run during a two-week span. 

With creative direction from Professor Sam Davis-Boyd and logistical planning from Marisa Valent-Altland, this year’s movies consisted of “Flee,” “Gunfighter Paradise,” “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” and “Return to Seoul.” 

Captivating a wide range of narratives and styles, this year’s films originated from Denmark, France, Norway, Sweden, the United States, Cambodia, Germany, Belgium and Qatar. 

The Film Festival’s first showing, “Flee,” highlighted the animated story of a man under an alias name sharing his past of fleeing his home country of Afghanistan to Denmark. 

“As far as I know, we haven’t shown any animated documentary films in the festival… It’s just such a beautiful film. It’s a heartbreaking film, but it was a beautiful film,” Davis-Boyd said. 

“Gunfighter Paradise” is the story of a hunter returning home to North Carolina. After his mother’s passing, he returns to the family home and his mind begins to disintegrate. 

“It was amazing. I really, really enjoyed it. It was funny, weird, and abstract. I spent a lot of time thinking about it after it was over, which is something I really enjoy; when art makes you think like that,” Valent-Atland said. 

At the screening of “Gunfighter Paradise,” director Jethro Waters made a visit to Herrick Auditorium. 

“One of our deans connected him and I. He was fantastic. I thought it was really exciting to have a filmmaker in attendance at the International Film Festival. It was really fun,” Davis-Boyd said. 

Set in 18th-century France, “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” told the story of Marianne, who is commissioned to do a wedding portrait of Héloïse without her knowing. 

“I went into the movie not knowing what it was going to be about, but I walked out of it really enjoying the cinematography,” said sophomore Chance Jaquin. 

“Return to Seoul,” wrapped up the film festival’s two-week stretch. It was about a mid-20s woman returning to Korea, the country she was born in before being adopted by a French couple. She begins to track down her biological parents as her trip takes a shocking turn. 

In collaboration with the communications department, the Film Festival also serves as a Soundings event where students can attend more than one to earn Soundings credit. 

This requires behind-the-scenes direction from Soundings Director Valent-Altland. She is in charge of the logistical work for the festival including booking the space, setting up the event, and advertising. 

“I think the film festival is great because you get to hit arts and culture in the same events. They’ve got four different opportunities to see these films so it’s something that’s easier for students to get to because there are multiple opportunities,” Valent-Altland said. 

Soundings students also like the festival as a Soundings option.

“I think it’s a good idea for films to be a part of Soundings because everyone enjoys watching movies, and some people don’t enjoy music or theater. Having variety in Soundings events makes it a lot more enjoyable” said Castleton student Devon Kibbey. 

Davis-Boyd’s excitement and passion for the film festival exudes through her words. 

“I love doing the film festival… I think there’s something so special about sitting in a room with other people watching a film… I live for moments of reactions,” she said.

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