The Santa Cruz Film Festival, which celebrated its 12th year last week, brought together the entire Santa Cruz community through appreciation of film arts. The Del Mar Theatre, the Rio Theatre, the Pacific Arts Complex and the Santa Cruz Roller Palladium showcased independent films from Nov. 7-10, ranging from queer-based shorts to documentary features on the environmental politics behind guitar-making.
“This festival is about bringing people together for shared experiences,” said festival director Jeff Ross. “It provides people from the Santa Cruz area access to a carefully curated selection of films made by members of their immediate community as well as from around the world. They get to meet the filmmakers, stars and subjects of the films and talk to them about their work.”
Founded by Jane Sullivan and Johnny Davis in 2001, the initially 10-day festival in May was moved to November this year.
“We decided this past year to move it to November because we thought people would rather sit indoors in November instead of May,” said president of the board of directors Elizabeth Gummere.
The festival was not only an opportunity for independent filmmakers to show their films and their individuality, but also for the members of the community to connect with each other through their shared love of film.
“Watching a film is often a private thing,” said festival programmer Logan Walker. “At the festival, we tried to hold the screenings and events in places that would foster conversations everyone could get into.”
The Santa Cruz Film Festival consists entirely of independent films, as the event is ultimately an opportunity for independent filmmakers to progress by showing their works. Filmmakers go through the “festival circuit” process in which they make films, visit different festivals and hopefully win some awards to become more desirable for distributors to sell their films or put them on streaming websites such as Netflix.
“This festival is for all sorts of filmmakers to show their work,” Gummere said. “A lot of times independent filmmakers won’t have the chance to have their films in theaters unless they show them in independent film festivals first.”
The festival welcomes filmmakers from all over the world, including student, to submit their works to the festival.
“The Santa Cruz Film Festival has been a place for showcasing local and student filmmaking,” Walker said. “For the past four festivals, the film and digital media department at UCSC has curated a great program of student-made shorts.”
For its most recent event, UCSC’s film and digital media department featured its fourth installment to the Santa Cruz Film Festival, “Desire Obscured.” The majority of the films presented were documentary features.
“A lot of documentaries are shown because documentaries are pretty popular in Santa Cruz,” Gummere said. “This is a very astute population and they like to be educated about things by way of film.”
The November event was not the only opportunity for the Santa Cruz community to support film arts. The Pacific Rim Film Festival took place in October, and another film festival will take place in Watsonville in March.
“It’s getting more and more popular, which is a really good thing since a lot more filmmaking stories are going to be out there in the world,” Gummere said.
Festival programmer Logan Walker believes the event provides the community the opportunity to reflect on the issues presented in the films.
“Film can be a medium supporting many different kinds of voices and perspectives,” Walker said. “Also, these films aren’t just something coming from far away. They’re being made right here in Santa Cruz.”