A short film festival is returning to Morgantown this weekend, providing attendees with an opportunity to see films from outside the mainstream.
After a three-year hiatus, the eighth West Virginia Mountaineer Short Film Festival will bring more than 100 short films from across the world to Morgantown.
The festival will showcase not only traditional movies across several genres, but also experimental pieces that push the boundaries of visual storytelling.
“It’s really a collection of independently made films and animations and videos,” said Gerald Habarth. He is an associate professor in West Virginia University’s School of Art and Design, and the film festival’s founder and director.
“Generally, we’re exposed to what we get through our streaming media, or what we see in our local theater. This is an attempt to bring to the community a much wider and richer perspective on this type of cultural production,” he said.
Habarth said the shorter format of the films on display allows visitors to see a wider variety. It also means more films can be shown.
The festival is also international, with submissions from as far away as Peru. Habarth said that allows him to curate a unique viewing experience, one where local Appalachian stories can be in concert with those from Iran or Taiwan.
“That’s the kind of magic that happens in a film festival,” Habarth said. “That is not gonna happen by the kinds of choices that we’re likely to make through just poking through our digital streams.”
Despite its international reach, the festival is still very much about giving a venue to smaller local filmmakers, like WVU junior Seth Nardo.
“Not every type of medium has to be a giant blockbuster,” he said. “Not everything has to be a multibillion dollar thing to enjoy. Some people can do something with a handycam, and it can still be an enjoyable watch.”
One of the things that Nardo said he is most looking forward to is being in the room, engaging in a viewing experience with like-minded creators.
“As a filmmaker, it’s cool to meet up with other filmmakers,” he said. “Submitting a short film, there’s a lot more process and a lot more art and thought put out to it. I feel like that’s important, to surround yourself with like-minded people.”
Habarth said that although the festival could have gone online during the pandemic, he chose to wait to be able to share the viewing experience again in person with passionate creators like Nardo.
“I like to think of the film festival as a sort of a collective experience, both a collective expression on behalf of the artists and the filmmakers and also, the idea of a collective experience in the audience,” Habarth said. “I see the film festival as kind of a gathering of people who are interested in this content to go to experience this, as a group, I think that’s critical.”
There really is something special about coming together in a darkened theater to share an experience with friends and strangers alike, something that is lost between smartphones and social distancing.
So maybe this weekend, heed Nardo’s advice: Get your friends and family, grab some popcorn, and enjoy the afternoon.