For five years running, the Duke Independent Film Festival has been honoring the best in homegrown student filmmaking, and it’s got no plans of stopping anytime soon.
The festival — run entirely by students, for students — celebrates everything from documentary to narrative to experimental short-form cinema, while forging connections within Duke's scattered campus filmmaker community.
The Duke Independent Film Festival runs April 12 and 13 from 7-9 p.m. in the Rubenstein Arts Center at Duke University.
“I don’t feel like we do enough on campus for the arts community,” festival director Olivia Hicks said.
The stereotype of Duke as a STEM university, Hicks said, means that often the arts aren’t given the official school support she feels they deserve. She outlined difficulties with finding equipment and connecting with other student creatives, to name just a couple of issues. That's why one of DIFF’s goals, she said, is to uplift the arts community as a whole and to create a wide network of student artists with vested interest in each other’s works.
“There are filmmakers, but they’re not that connected. They’re not that intertwined.” Hicks said. “A lot of people are working on individual projects.”
When the school doesn’t give their full effort, DIFF’s Editorial Director Quinten Sansosti said, students don’t have as many of the easy, official avenues to meet and collaborate as they might get elsewhere. That’s where DIFF comes in, providing a welcoming space for filmmakers to take in others’ work and lay the foundation for campus-wide partnerships.
“People want to get involved, not just in the films, but to be a part of the organization,” said Sam Klein, a filmmaker and DIFF’s treasurer. “We have an editorial page set up. We have articles going up about films, we’ve got reviews, we’ve got a podcast on hiatus, but it’s been established, and people want to get involved with it.”
It sounds like the approach is working. Festival attendance and engagement has been growing year-over-year and Klein said he’s optimistic about the future.
DIFF has become Duke’s premier venue for aspiring auteurs to showcase their efforts to an appreciative audience. There’s always the nerves, Klein said — being selected for the festival is an honor and it’s plenty common for students to put precious little stock in their work. But the recognition goes a long way toward building confidence and cinematographic prowess.
At the end of the day, it keeps coming back to community — the film community and the arts community at large. DIFF may not have its dream of a single, unified Duke artistic consciousness just yet, but it's well on its way.
“There’s room to grow, and we're growing,” Klein said.
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