The Texas Union Film Festival displays the best creative, moving and hilarious films student filmmakers have to offer.
The 11th annual TUFF ceremony was held on February 20 at the Texas Union Theatre. The audience was treated with snacks, a judges panel and of course the films. A wide array of films were shown at the festival. An Italian style horror, a comedy following a man with OCD’s quest to talk to his crush and a social commentary on mass incarceration. All fantastic films showcasing the hidden talents of film’s up and coming creators.
“It’s interesting how people at [The University of Texas at Austin] can really express themselves,” history major Ashley Gelato said. “I think it’s a great medium to really capture the hidden perspectives in a world that you don’t normally see.”
In today’s society people are more likely to spend their buck at a professional film from Hollywood’s biggest studios, or stay at home with Netflix. Student films are unfortunately underlooked, despite being just as important.
“It’s just another form of art it has just as much worth as anything else. It doesn’t matter if it’s student or professional, it’s still worth something,” Gelato said.
A striking black and white representation of jazz. A haunting stop motion feature showing the effects of childhood trauma. A jolly look at a run in with Santa and a couple of home burglars.
These students have definitely proved their worth, but there’s more to TUFF than giving these filmmakers an audience. It’s also about forging opportunities and connections in the film industry.
TUFF allows student filmmakers to get inspiration from their peers and get networking opportunities, said co-director Andrea Olivares.
“This is just another opportunity for them to potentially grow into [Austin Film Festival] and [Austin Film Society], to have the platform to get their films and message into a much larger picture,” Olivares said.
Co-director Norma Perez Duran recalled a time when a judge or guest offered a filmmaker a job.
“It’s definitely the opportunity to create something and have someone you might not have even heard of that can start your career or move your career up,” Duran said.
Three winners were awarded plaques for their hard and brilliant work. 3rd place was given to Joseph Marks for “Shut-In”, a mysterious film about an agoraphobic computer programmer beginning to feel his home is no longer safe after receiving strange messages. 2nd place went to Emmanuel King for “Solo”, a beautiful film following the story of a dancer and how she uses dance to express herself. 1st place went to Alex Fleck for “Warm Milk”, a surprisingly hilarious film about a man and his desire for warm milk.
“I feel like especially with student films there’s such a diverse student body and a lot of different minds,” senior Joseph Banda said. “I was just really curious to see what stories our UT students had to tell.”
Luisa Gonzalez is the filmmaker behind “Natal”, based off a true story, it centers around a father grappling with his traditional values and accepting his son for who he is. For Gonzalez, the Q&A session was the most helpful part of her experience with TUFF.
“Those questions are really fun to get, and really think about because they might be a perspective that you didn’t think about before,” Gonzalez said.
This year was Duran’s second time directing TUFF and Olivares’ first, both agree that it is a very special and fun time for the Showtime committee.
“It’s also a fun event for us because we get to dress nice, take pictures and we really get to interact,” Duran said. “It’s like our own mini party.”
Sometimes even the hectic moments can add to the excitement and sense of community.
“The event created the opportunity for everybody to have this night where we were all helping, we were all working but it’s really our committee event and that was a lot of fun,” Olivares said.
“Natal” was a personal favorite from the festival. Filming with children surrounded by expensive equipment was a challenge, Gonzalez said. She also worried about critical reception, but the film was welcomed with heartfelt reactions from audience members.
“I also liked Natal, just because I feel like I related to that story more on a personal level,” Banda said.
TUFF is a very unique and exciting event. You never know what can come out of a student’s head and then be turned into film. It’s this feeling of not knowing that makes this event different and fresh. Showtime is known for showing typical Hollywood blockbusters every week, but TUFF gives UT students a chance to see something new from someone they can see just walking down Speedway.
“We really try to encourage non student filmmakers or guests to come and join and see what our students are,” Duran said. “Show them there is more to just the big films, there’s people that are beginning their careers.”