When I told my friends that I was attending the Frozen River Film Festival this weekend, there was some initial excitement, followed by the question, “What’s showing?” I responded, “Well, they’re all documentaries—” and immediately, many of my friends adopted a polite expression or tone for the rest of the conversation.
I didn’t really blame them, I used to feel this way about documentaries myself. When I was younger, I equated watching a documentary with sitting in history class or watching PBS with my mother. When it came down to it, I essentially thought that all documentaries were created by Ken Burns (who, if you’re not familiar with, is largely responsible for the archival footage style of documentary filmmaking).
No disrespect to Mr. Burns (or my mother, I do enjoy PBS), but finding out that the documentary genre is so much more expansive was a pivotal moment for me in my decision to pursue a career in filmmaking. Documentaries can be as thrilling as fictional dramas and they can be extremely funny. They can show that truth is often stranger than fiction and life is always complicated, no matter who you are. Perhaps what fascinates me most about documentaries is how they can capture life as it is before it disappears.
Armed with this knowledge, I was very excited when I learned of the Frozen River Film Festival, and it did not disappoint. Officially beginning on Wednesday, Feb. 7th, the majority of the film screenings occurred over the weekend, concluding on Sunday, Feb. 11th. Many of the screenings were directly on campus and admission was free for WSU students, which felt like a steal after seeing how many people were paying for their tickets.
The center of activity was in the SLC atrium where there was a volunteer fair and live music. People bustled in and out between screenings, buying tickets and food to sustain themselves throughout the day. It was impossible to view every film since there was nearly always three separate screenings occurring at the same times.
Some screenings were solely one feature-length film while others were sets of three to eight short films. What they all held in common were themes of environmentalism, social justice, and adventure.
While there were many great films shown over the weekend, two that stood out in particular to me were the short film, “Metronomic,” and the hour-long feature, Walking While Black: L.O.V.E. is the Answer. The two were extremely different: “Metronomic” was a hilarious expression of creativity that resulted from the combined efforts of stuntmen, air dancers, musicians, and a film team. Walking While Black, on the other hand, was a frank, thoughtful look into racial profiling and the relationships between law enforcement officers and their communities.
Both films thoroughly engaged their respective audiences with people leaving the auditoriums either laughing with their friends and families about the former, or engaging in serious, introspective community discussion about the latter. These films accomplished what every good film is supposed to: capturing the imaginations and attentions of the audience and leaving them with something more than they had upon entering the auditorium.
Perhaps my personal favorite of the weekend was a film titled Charged: The Eduardo Garcia Story. This hour and a half film followed the recovery of a man who survived being shocked by 2400 volts in a freak accident while hiking. Covering not only his path to healing, the film also examined the complex relationships he held with his closest loved ones and it contained several ongoing plots and themes. This piece would have been excellent as a fictional, narrative film, and the fact that it was real only increased its staying power.
As I walked out of the auditorium following the screening of Charged, I felt just as the title suggested: charged and excited to return to my everyday life. I felt inspired to return to my filmmaking pursuits despite the difficulties that are inevitably entailed with pursuing a dream.
No matter what you pursue in life, the road is going to be long and often frustrating, and there are many times when you just feel like giving up. But it is opportunities like these that give you that extra energy, that extra charge, and remind you of why you love what you love. It is for opportunities like these that I am extremely grateful to be attending WSU.
-Brynn Artley ’21
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