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Film School Confidential 2008: A Showcase of San Diego and Latin Filmmakers

Dissent. Revolt. Liberate. It's Film School Confidential 2008! That's right, it's time again to celebrate the passion, dedication and fresh young talent found right here in San Diego and Tijuana. The festival takes place at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park on Sunday November 16 at 6:00 pm.

Film School Confidential is an event sponsored by the Media Arts Center San Diego, the Museum of Photographic Arts, and the San Diego Film Critics Society. Film School Confidential is now in it's seventh year. Unlike other student festivals, FSC is a curated event. There are no calls for entries and filmmakers do not have to pay a fee to submit their films. Instead, the films are chosen based on recommendations by teachers, professors, and other filmmakers. This year the festival offers something of a descent into darkness. There are a few bright, even fanciful films early on but by evening's end the tone grow exceeding dark with a trio of Latin horror shorts. We will also be honoring retired Point Loma teacher Larry Zeiger with the Kyle Counts Award for his years of encouraging and showcasing young talent.

"Election Video"

(Point Loma High, 2008) 2 minutes Original format MiniDV

Filmmaker: Jonathan Jackson

This pre-election video mash-up recasts "Star Wars" as Jackson makes a plea for people to vote their hearts. Jackson is completely self-taught in After Effects and Sony Vegas. Kudos to Jackson for not only his willingness to embrace new technologies but also for having a flair for political humor (which also implies a political awareness at a young age). I hope Jackson continues to pursue filmmaking.

"The Perfect Frame"

(SDSU, 2007) 10 minutes Original format XDCAM HD

Director: Ross Ching Producer: Iris Caffin Director of photography: Max Wheeler

Cast: Phil Kruse

Taking home top prize at SDSU's end-of-summer film festival, "The Perfect Frame" explores just what might happen if you discovered color for the first time. The film captures a joyous sense of discovery on the part of the main character. It's a joy that mirrors Ching's own delight in the possibilities of the medium. What's amazing is how effortlessly the surreal tale plays out. You'd never suspect the amount of painstakingly slow and intense work needed to make a film of such visual delights.

"Do Something"

(SDSU graduate, 2008) 4 minutes Original format Mini DV

Filmmaker: Ron Najor

Cast: Timz

Award winning Iraqi-American rapper Timz urges the public to "change the world, not the channel," with his new music video. This film if from an FSC "graduate," Ron Najor. I showed Najor's short Killing Time at the festival's inaugural event. Now Najor lives in LA where he works in the industry but still finds free time to make his own projects like this music video. It's nice to see students move on and continue careers in film. It's also nice to chart their progress.

"Untitled."

(UCSD, 2007) 16 minutes Original format 720p HD

Writer/director: Edward Kim

Cast James Lintern, Jomo Smith, Luana Choi, Jonathan Libbey, John Tjong, Christopher Lee, Daniel Kim, Jessica Yoon, Jasmine Cha, Andreia Kim

A film student tries to think of an idea for his next movie when they start coming to life before his eyes. This film is clever, playful, and at times even lyrical. This is an inspired and fun look at the pain and agony of the creative process.

"Girl Who Came From the Sea"

(UCSD) 16 minutes Original format 16 mm

Written, directed and shot by Jessie Pellegrino Edited by Jessie Pellegrino, Andrew Ceperley

Silent film score: Kevin Macleod Mbira solos: Michael Proft

Cast Colleen Borden, Michael Proft, Jeff Huang, Ron Lien, Scott Bandy, Jeff Payne, Byron Diffendorfer

A lovely and playful cinematic poem about being a stranger in a strange land. Pelligrino displays a wonderful visual style that includes a fine sense of production design.

"Sed/Thirst"

(Mexico) 15 minutes Original format Mini DVD

Filmmaker: Christian Cueva

A female vampire wakes up in a warehouse near the streets of Sinaloa, the most violent city in the country. This is Cueva's first film but he shows a savvy sense of filmmaking in that he doesn't let his lack of funds or equipment hinder his imagination. He uses real life horrors of life in a violent city as the perfect backdrop for his tale of vampires.

(Note: there is a short unsubtitled section in the film.)

Destin Cretton's Short Term 12 (Flagpop)

"Short Term 12"

(SDSU graduate, 2008) 22 minutes Original format Super 16 mm

Writer/director/editor/composer: Destin Cretton

Producers: Michelle Steffes, Anthony Pang, Destin Cretton Director of Photography: Brett Pawlak

Cast: Brad William Henke, Tania Verafield, LaKeith Stanfield, Phoenix Henke

Brad William Henke is Denim, the supervisor for a residential facility housing 15 kids who are all affected by child abuse and neglect. Inside the gates of "Short Term 12", fights and restraints happen every day and Denim knows how to respond. But as his personal life collides with work, he begins to realize that he is no better off than the kids he's trying to help. This film is from another FSC alum, Destin Cretton. I have shown a number of films he's done with Lowell Frank but this is the first I've shown of Cretton helming solo. The tone and style are different from his collaborations with Frank, yet all his films share themes about community and how people connect. www.flagpop.com

"The Eyes of Edward James"

(Canada, 2006) 15 minutes Original format HD Cam

Director/writer: Rodrigo Gudino Producers: Marco Pecota, Brenton Bentz Special make-up effects: Gaslight Studio

Cast: Shahla Kareen, Tal Zimerman and Richard Underhill

"Lies are the windows to the soul," says the tagline for this film. I have Tijuana filmmaker Aaron Soto (and FSC alum) to thank for introducing me to the works of Rodrigo Gudino. In fact Soto introduced me to all of the Latin films showcased in the event. Gudino is by no means a student filmmaker but he was born in San Diego and grew up just south of the border. His penchant for horror led him to found "Rue Morgue" magazine and now he is turning to horror filmmaking. I'm happy to showcase two of his horror shorts. This one is an especially effective piece -- well edited, carefully structured, and smartly played out. www.rodrigogudino.com/films

"Attack of the Robots From Nebula 5"

(Spain, 2008) 7 minutes Original format HDV

Director/producer/writer/editor: Chema Garc & iacute;a Ibarra Art direction: Leonor D & iacute;az Esteve Camera/photography: Alberto Gutierrez

Cast: Jos e Manuel Ibarra, Carmina Esteve, Pedro D & iacute;ez, Leonor D & iacute;az.

Almost everybody is going to die very soon. That's the description that Ibarra gives for his pitch perfect sci-fi robot tale. Ibarra reveals a fine eye for composing his frame, and for composing the sparse, dryly effective narration. The film is elegantly simple and completely original. I hope we see more from Ibarra. And yes I bent the rules to show this film from a 27-year-old copy writer from Spain but that's the benefit of being the sole person in charge of a film festival. But how could I not show a film from such a fresh new talent -- that totally fits the mission statement of the festival to showcase new and young talent. www.nebulosa5.com/inicio.html

Filmmaker Ross Ching.

"Eclectic 2.0"

(SDSU, 2006) 2 minutes Original format 35mm still photography

Filmmaker: Ross Ching

What would life look like 100 times faster? In

"Eclectic," Ching uses time lapse (all done with a digital SLR still camera and edited together using Quicktime Pro and Final Cut Pro) to show sweeping pans of nature and dazzling night skies. Think "Koyaanisqatsi" for the kind of breathtaking and powerful imagery he creates. http://rossching.com

"The Demonology of Desire"

(Canada, 2007) 16 minutes Original format Super 16mm

Director/writer: Rodrigo Gudino Producer: Marco Pecota Cinematography: Derek Rogers Special make-up effects: Gaslight Studio

Cast: Bianca Rusu, Tudor Popleanu, Jewelia Fisico

It's not love if there's no suffering. Everybody knows that. That's the tag line Gudino gives for the film. Gudino describes it as "Equal parts fatal fable, romantic thriller and artcore horror, this film is a love story... with a caustic heart." This film may send some running for the doors but then that's not a bad thing when you're talking horror. He's not afraid to go to dark places, and that's precisely what you need in a horror filmmaker. So far Gudino has been working in shorts only but hopefully he will move into features as well. We can never have too many good horror filmmakers. Warning: mature content and violence.

And finally, Film School Confidential is pleased to honor recently retired Point Loma High School teacher Larry Zeiger with the San Diego Film Critics Society's Kyle Counts Award. The Award is given out each year to someone in the San Diego community who has made a positive impact on the film community. For the past 30 years, Larry Zeiger has inspired hundreds of students in theater and film. I am grateful to him for his enthusiastic help and support over the years. He was always championing student work and over the years he provided the festival with many exceptional and innovative works. He will be missed at Point Loma High School. But don't think that retirement has slowed him down in the least. He's busy with his memoirs, writing musical shows, and remaining active in the arts community. Many thanks to Larry Zeiger for three decades of dedication to the arts and to future generations of artists.

For Festival information call 619-952-5768. For directions call MoPA at 619-238-7559. Website: www.sdfcs.org.

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