Last Friday, hundreds of people gathered at Campbell Hall to watch the 26th Annual Reel Loud Silent Film Festival. This festival brings a unique take to silent films by having live bands and musicians perform as locally and student-made silent films are screened. It was an exciting film watching experience that exceeded my expectations and redefined how I looked at silent films.
This year, the festival’s theme was “Now: Yesterday’s Tomorrow, Tomorrow’s Yesterday.” It was an interesting theme, although it did not play a significant role in the festival, besides the hosts making a few jokes about the concept of time.
The hosts switched between the producers and directors throughout the show, but they were all charismatic and lively. Despite the several moments of awkward silence and banter, they still managed to bring the show together and create a friendly atmosphere.
The festival started off on a lively note with the film “House of Seitan” directed by Rachel Taylor. This film explores the lives of the people dogs residing at a co-op. With its bright colors and upbeat music, it brought everyone’s spirits up and set a good mood for the rest of the festival.
One of my personal favorite films was “Severance,” directed by Astor Stark, who also performed live music during the film. The film utilizes beautiful neon lights and a heart-wrenching classical score to tell the story of an agoraphobic man who lost his wife.
The film that brought about the greatest amount of laughter from the crowd was Aaron Kesler’s film “Jackson Park Express,” an adaptation of the Weird Al song of the same name. This film is about a man and a woman communicating with each other during a bus ride about their potential relationship using only facial expressions, body language, and ridiculous special effects. The green screen effects are cheesy and ridiculous, but they work perfectly with the silliness of the song itself. The song was woven seamless into the film by a live band, with Aaron Kesler performing on the drums.
Between the acts of this festival, local bands would play original songs. The first band to perform was the rock band “Times New Roman,” which embodied the typical college garage rock band. The second band that performed was the jazz band “The Honey Men,” which performed a few soothing jazz songs.
The festival ended with the powerful film “Elsewhere,” directed by Leah Bleich. This film is about a young boy who freezes time right before his abusive father gets into a fight with his mother. Throughout the film, the boy moves his frozen parents around and positions them in scenarios that make them seem like an ideal family, only to realize how alone he truly feels. Accompanying the film was a performance of a live acoustic song by musician Melissa Leanda that perfectly encapsulated the melancholy-based theme of the film.
At the very end of the festival, there was an awards show that honored several films. “Severance” won for best editing, “Wade Out” (an adaptation of an E.E. Cummings poem) won for best cinematography, and “Jackson Park Express” won for best music. Fred Toye, a University of California, Santa Barbara alumnus, festival judge, and producer/director for shows like “Designated Survivor” and “Westworld,” won the Inspirational Alumni Award.
The film “Elsewhere” won the audience choice award and the Scott Wells Award, which is an award for the film which is the most creative and impactful. This award was created in honor of Scott Wells, a former UCSB filmmaker who died a few years ago. It seemed fitting that “Elsewhere” won this award with its genuine, unfiltered creativity.
The Reel Loud film Festival was a great show that everyone should experience. It was a wonderful celebration of art made by fellow UCSB and community members.