Colonial Theatre hosts Student Film Festival

The Colonial Theatre in downtown Keene opened its doors to the 22nd annual Keene State College Film Festival on Sunday, May 1. The festival showcased senior P4 projects on the big screen and was free and open to the public. Film Professor Jo Dery said before the films started that she was proud to keep the tradition alive, but more proud of the work of the students in the festival. The festival started at 1:00 p.m. and went on until 4:00 p.m.

The festival consisted of eight films throughout the day, ranging from experiment visual pieces, to documentaries, to standard narrative stories. After the first portion of the festival finished, closing with Sultan Thahir’s film Three Memories, there was a brief intermission before starting the second half of the festival.

The first film, Burnt Marshmallows was a longer narrative tail about five kids who are friends in a small town trying to raise money for their annual marshmallow roast. Their age, and differences in opinions on how to act, get in the way of each other. This coming of age tale has some dramatic twists throughout. As its crew said in the Q&A period following the festival, this movie really kept the viewer on their toes.

Following Burnt Marshmallows was the documentary film Behind the Doortag, which followed the lives of a few RAs on campus from the beginning of their training in the summer to a few weeks before the end of school.

George Amaru / Art Director

George Amaru / Art Director

Director Nathan Brown, an RA himself, said he just wanted to shed light on what goes on behind the doors of a residence hall.

“You never know what’s on the other side of the closed door,” said Brown. “And that, I felt needed to be talked about.”

Next up was the narrative short film, Point of Death. A surreal narrative about a disparaged and suicidal filmmaker talking with God after meeting on a bridge, Point of Death captured the importance of sound in film magically. Co-Director of the film Daniel McAuliffe explained that since it was shot entirely on a bridge with rushing water underneath it, all the original audio had to be deleted and the sound in the movie had to be created in the studio and dubbed over the video.

This folly work McAuliffe said, “Took months and months to get right, but once we realized the sound was terrible raw, we knew we had to do it…we took two days to shoot, plus some punch-ins, and then spent the rest in the studio.”

The first experimental film of the afternoon was Three Memories by Sultan Thahir. The film consisted of three vignettes of altered and edited 16mm footage from various road trips he had gone on with friends and put together. Thahir said he wanted to create three separate memories from these road trips, and have the vignette try to tell that story specifically, but have it create emotion that is inclusive and understandable to the viewer without knowing the specific memory.

Thahir said, “I went with love, pain and journey because yes, I did these and went through them, but when they’re that vague conceptually, really everyone does.”

Thahir explained that the process behind his visually stunning film was mainly just collecting the footage.       

He said, “Once I started editing, it really all came together on it’s own…it was a really magical thing.”

After the intermission was the film Where There’s Smoke, a narrative film about a young hitchhiker named Mackenzie getting picked up by an older man named Charlie, and the story of their short but meaningful friendship.

Director Sam Spielberg said that she was sad about leaving college, and used that to come up with this idea of how short friendships are important to us, and to show how they impact people.

Spielberg also said, “We had a couple other ideas that never came to fruition…but I knew I always wanted to do something involving hitchhiking and that’s when I started writing Where There’s Smoke.”

Following that was the second experimental film of the evening, A Process. This film, as director Matt Hanley put it, was a demonstration in what can occur through digital editing of audio and video as a film.

The nine minute piece was a jarring and intense set of visual and audio stimulation that sent a chilling air of anxiety through the theater.

Following A Process was the narrative film Faux Leather, a story of a young and not very confident man going on a date that leads him through a long list of insane encounters, but ends with his first love.

Thahir, the cinematographer for Faux Leather said, “Working on this was a blast just because the director [Connor Vail] really knew what he wanted…it wasn’t over complicated, and that simplicity lead to a fun, and funny short film that really accomplishes what it set out to do.”

Finally, the last film of the night was Caregiver, a narrative film about a man who steals to give to those who need it, but then takes it further once he meets a young boy. The crew explained that they wanted the lead character to be one who the viewer didn’t know what to think about. This misdirection was fluid throughout the film, and really kept the viewer on the edge of their seat throughout.

As the festival wrapped up, there was a reception at Rhodes Hall on the KSC campus for crews to mingle with each other, the public, and professors in the department while refreshments were served.

Matt Bacon can be contacted at

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