This past weekend, the 42nd Bi-Annual New Jersey Film Festival kicked off with its first lineup of films.
Across the two-day opening of screenings, features and shorts were showcased within the cozy confines of Voorhees Hall on the College Avenue campus. Attendees were welcomed by a lively staff of Rutgers students, who were there to support the medium of film.
Here are our quick thoughts on each of the films shown:
"The Blues Society" - Augusta Palmer (Brooklyn, New York)
It's a daunting task to be the first of anything, let alone the first film shown in front of a buzzing crowd. Luckily, "The Blues Society" rose to the occasion.
The documentary traces the resurgence of blues music in the 1960s, fueled by the creation of the Memphis Country Blues Festival. Featuring a unique visual flair and insight into influential musicians who were never given their due, "The Blues Society" is perfect for any hardcore music enthusiast.
"Bear Hugs" - Maggie May Brummer (Manahawkin)
In this impressive animated short, an adorable teddy bear embarks on a journey across the city to reach a young girl who is spending the holiday season stuck in a hospital bed. It imparts a valuable lesson to children about the power of spreading love.
Though the holiday season is now a distant memory, "Bear Hugs" remains a delightful gift that should be on everyone's wish list.
"The Curtain" - Leslie-Ann Coles (Toronto, Canada)
"The Curtain" centers on a woman revisiting a motel room she frequented as a child. During her stay, a rotating cast of characters forces her to confront deep-seated trauma, which comes in the form of grainy, home video-esque footage.
Relatable, funny and heartbreaking, "The Curtain" has it all.
"Jailhouse to Milhouse" - Buddy Farmer (Southern California)
You may not know her story, but you definitely know her voice.
"Jailhouse to Milhouse" recounts the rocky upbringing of Pamela Hayden, a voice actor on the TV series "The Simpsons." Through raw, candid interviews, the movie chronicles how she was able to survive the flawed system of juvenile halls — a testament to her perseverance.
"Irina" - Amelie Magdalena Loy (Vienna, Austria)
"Irina" is a claymation short that portrays a lonely woman trapped within her home with only her thoughts to keep her company. One day she comes across a crossroads: Does she continue to succumb to the pain or choose a new path?
The short is an incredibly moving contemplation on life and death, conveyed through its memorable lead character and stunning art.
"Demi-Goddesses" - Martin Gerigk (Krefeld, Germany)
Out of all the films shown, "Demi-Goddesses" easily sticks out as the weirdest one, which is not necessarily a bad thing.
Featuring unique animation with photos and realistic images, the seven-minute short consists of a series of seemingly detached vignettes, tied together by the presence of god-like figures and a mysterious, glowing egg. It's difficult to immediately pinpoint a theme — in some ways, it feels like watching a random collage be created in real time.
Yet, when considering all of the film's imagery, it delves into several existential themes such as life, gender and nature. When paired with the short's ethereal background score, it results in a surreal, out-of-body experience.
"Light, Protect Me From Oblivion" - Bill Royer (Los Angeles)
"Light Protect Me From Oblivion" makes the most of a simple premise — a man reflects on his life. Through a series of gorgeously composed shots, the short conveys the inherent beauty found in the minutiae of life.
"Muckville" - Jeff Mertz (Kingston, New York)
"Muckville" stands out as one of the festival's most crucial documentaries, shedding light on underreported issues in the farming industry. Debilitated by the effects of climate change and sloppy farming regulations, the patriarch of an onion-farming family grapples with depression and mental health issues.
The short film contains beautiful cinematography and long, sprawling shots of vast, empty farmland, commanding the viewer's attention.
"Electra" - Daria Kashcheeva (Prague, Czech Republic)
If you thought the "Barbie" movie was too bright and bubbly, this film might be more up your alley.
Now an adult, the titular character, Electra, reflects on her 10th birthday, reinterpreting the abuse and neglect inflicted upon her by her parents. What results is a chaotic nightmare, boasting fast-paced editing, intricate sets, costumes and a seemingly infinite amount of doll and mannequin body parts.
Stay tuned for week two of the NJ Film Festival, kicking off with "The Disembodied Adventures of Alice" this Friday at 7 p.m.