Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Black Warrior Film Festival highlights student filmmakers

Abbie Armstrong isn’t going to look at the faces in the crowd. She’s not going to try and figure what they might be thinking. When her film premieres at the Black Warrior Film Festival this weekend, she’s going to try and put the audience at the back of her mind.

“I think the best thing to do is just to try and shut off your brain, and watch it as though you were watching it for the first time,” said Armstrong, a senior majoring in telecommunication and film. “It’s really hard to do, but it’s worth a try.”

Black Warrior Film Festival is held annually to showcase the work of student filmmakers, not just here at the University of Alabama, but all over the country. Becca Murdoch, one of the co-directors of this year’s festival, explained that it began five years ago after a group of UA students went to Sundance Film Festival and were inspired to created their own festival.

The two-day festival will feature 29 short films by students, 13 by UA students and 16 by students from other parts of the country, along with workshops and panels from industry professionals. This year’s headline speaker is Birmingham native Daniel Scheinert, the director of “Swiss Army Man,” which stars “Harry Potter” star Daniel Radcliffe.

“We’ve hosted people like Ava Duvernay, who directed ‘Selma’ [and] who’s directing ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ and is doing a bunch of great things,” said Murdoch, a junior majoring in telecommunication and film. “When she came, one of the students who attended the festival actually got to know her really well, and is now her personal assistant and travels with her everywhere. So we like to think we provide really excellent opportunities for students, but also a fun and engaging thing to do for people who just like movies.”

This is Armstrong’s second year submitting to the festival. “Since Feeling Is First,” her film for this year, was inspired by E. E. Cumming’s poem and follows the relationship between a female android trying to learn how to love a human male who doesn’t know how to.

“You can see what other people in your region are working on it and figure out who you want to reach out to you for future work,” she said. “Because sometimes the stuff people submit is just so cool that you completely forget why you’re there in the first place and it becomes about talking to one person because you want to know what their thought process was like.”

Armstrong’s film will also premiere at the Bama Theatre on March 27, and is a finalist for this year’s Holle Award for Excellence in Filmmaking. She said the level of professionalism at Black Warrior Film Festival has prepared her to work in the film industry after she graduates.

Blake Hudson, a sophomore majoring in telecommunication and film, was the director of last year’s Feel Good Moment Award winner “Spot” about a man finding his dog. This year his entry is a psychological thriller called “Guilt” about a man whose wife was killed in a home invasion and his mysterious involvement with the crime.

“As somebody who was already but is constantly striving to be more involved in the film community here at school and in Tuscaloosa, it’s probably the best way to get your name out there,” he said. “This is stuff you poured your heart into it, and worked really hard on, being seen by people who care just as much about film as you do.”

Once all the films have been submitted, the festival’s programming committee watches every entry and rates it on directing, cinematography, acting and writing among other things to decide if the film is “Black Warrior Quality,” Murdoch said. They then narrow down the list based on allotted time and inform those who submitted about their decisions.

The selected films are then sent to a jury who judges the films and decides the winners in categories like Best Narrative Film, Best Documentary Film, Best Director and Best Cinematographer.

The festival also includes panels: one about filmmaking in the southeast, which Murdoch will be moderating, and another called Filmmaking in the Age of “Moonlight.”

This will be Murdoch’s last year of involvement since she’s graduating in December, but she’s been working with Black Warrior Film Festival since her freshman year. Learning about festivals and watching the festival grow, while still keeping local filmmaking as its focus, has been one her favorite college experiences, she said.

“Our film festival is about showcasing the voices that are around us,” she said. “It’s not just University of Alabama’s film festival – it’s a festival that everyone can submit to and something that they can take the Black Warrior Film Festival laurels and put it on their films and it actually mean something.”

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