Students meet international filmmakers at CIFF panels


Erin Brown

Columbia, who hosted panels for the 2016 Chicago International Film Festival, has partnered with the organization for more than a decade, according to CIFF’s Managing Director Vivian Teng.

By Campus Reporter

Columbia partnered with the 52nd annual Chicago International Film Festival to host panels with directors and filmmakers for audiences of students, faculty and the general public. 

The Columbia-hosted panels included “New Directors,” Oct. 18 and “Lunch with the Filmmakers” Oct. 20 and another “Lunch with the Filmmakers” will be held Oct. 25 at the Conaway Center, 1104 S. Wabash Ave. CIFF will be showing films until Oct. 27.

The college has supported and promoted CIFF’s New Directors Program for more than 11 years, according to Vivian Teng, managing director of CIFF, who said Columbia is a “top film school.”

“We have a longstanding relationship with Columbia,” Teng said. “We love working with the faculty and definitely with the professors and the film students [who] are very enthusiastic.” 

According to Teng, CIFF is the largest film festival in the Midwest, screening approximately 175 films from more than 50 countries. She added that the festival expects about 60,000 attendees. 

Attendees of the “New Directors Panel,” held in Film Row Cinema, 1104 S. Wabash Ave. engaged in an open discussion about “The Political and the Personal.”

The directors, whose films premiered at CIFF, included Erica Weiss, Carlos Lechuga, Tamer El Said and Nathan Adloff.

“The View from Tall” was the first film Weiss co-directed, and she said many elements of the film had a political theme. 

“This film was an attempt to take a stand and make a statement,” Weiss said. “We had a character who is disabled, [and] we have an actor that is also disabled playing the role.”

Weiss and co-director Caitlin Parrish also made a statement by having a primarily female crew, she added.

“We cast [the film] all locally [in Chicago] with a 65 percent female crew and 80 percent female department heads, which is something I’m very proud of,” Weiss said.

Unlike the “New Directors Panel,” only Columbia students were able to attend “Lunch with the Filmmakers.” 

Held in room 711 of the Conaway Center, 1104 S. Wabash Ave., students had the chance to talk with filmmakers Vardan Tozija, Shawn Convey, Jordan Melamed, and Juho Kuosmanen.

Melamed, whose third film and first documentary, “Futures Past,” was shown at the festival, said he use to trade commodities but left his finance career to pursue filmmaking. He added that now he lives a different, more fulfilling life and encouraged students to follow their passions. 

“This is real life,” Melamed said. “You can do something for the world with your films but even if you don’t and you’re just telling stories, you’re doing something for people. People need that escape.”

Teng said although movies can now be streamed online, there is nothing like seeing a movie on the big screen. She added CIFF is a once-a-year opportunity to experience films students might not typically be exposed to.

“Take advantage of this opportunity,”  Teng said. “See the films [you] might not otherwise have a chance to see and chat with people [you] may not have the opportunity to talk to.”