Held May 10, the seventh annual Tri-Co Film Festival was, by all accounts, a rousing success. Directed by Harlow Figa ’16, a former Hurford Center for the Arts and Humanities Emerging Artist-in-Residence, and juried by award-winning documentarian Sosena Solomon and Sundance Film Festival Senior Programmer Shari Frilot, this year’s festival drew a large crowd to the Bryn Mawr Film Institute near campus.
“[The] turnout was fantastic,” Figa reports. “We filled every seat in the theater.”
Though it was no doubt difficult for Solomon and Frilot to choose winners from the 12 films and five New Media projects they’d chosen to screen from the more than 44 submissions, only six awards would ultimately be handed out—and two Fords were among those honored. Cecilia Burke ’18 won the Special Jury Prize for Swim, Swim, Swim, Swim, a film that tests and blends “the boundaries of comedy and drama” through a look at one college student’s coping mechanisms after tragedy upends his life. And Nicky Rhodes ’19 won the New Media Prize for utilizing “cutting-edge AR technology” to make his project TwitterVision—an application for what he calls “a super-cool [augmented reality] headset” known as the Microsoft Hololens that allows the user to physically interact with real-time Twitter data.
“I didn’t even realize that there were going to be prizes,” says Rhodes, who is still reeling from the news of his win. However, he’s thankful for the jury’s open-mindedness towards new media projects like his own. “It takes a lot of creativity to understand virtual and augmented reality as perhaps a new paradigm of film.”
The other winners were Julian Turner Swarthmore ’18, who won the Dramatic Filmmaking Prize for M.A.Y. and its unflinching look at racism, classism, and the social institutions that perpetuate them; Alexandra Klugar BMC ’19, who won the Excellence in Experimental Filmmaking Prize for Halve the Peach, Split the Seed, a “found-footage short that toys with sound and image to create a feeling of the unknown;” Ruby Bantariza Swarthmore ’20, who won the Audience Prize for JOY, which dealt with themes as varied as grief, loss, and “returning to one’s roots;” and Akosua Ampofo BMC ’19, who won the Verite Filmmaking Prize for Living Legends and its exploration of hip-hop culture through the lens of the Philadelphia-based group Hardwork Movement.
This year’s festival was the first to intentionally spotlight multimedia work in addition to film, the culmination of an inclusionary initiative pioneered in 2017 by Figa in “response to the shift noticed in the Tri-Co towards expanding film and media resources and courses into the realms of installation, augmented/virtual reality, and other types of non-single-channel work.” To this end, Figa brought on Solomon and Frilot, two filmmakers with extensive multimedia backgrounds, to serve as the jurors. Together, Figa, Solomon, and Frilot chose to showcase “a handful of diverse, creative, and thoughtful new media projects” in this year’s festival, alongside the more conventional cinematic work the Tri-Co Film Festival is known for. The result was gratifying: “Students had a positive and impressive response” to the new installations, according to Figa, and the installations themselves “brought an engaging and refreshing energy and crowd” in.
“[The festival] is a wonderful way to exhibit student work,” says multimedia winner Rhodes, who appreciates the opportunity it affords him—and his fellow campus creatives—“to be able to share projects with the greater community, both to celebrate them and to gain critical feedback.” Likewise, Figa—an alumnus contributor—characterizes it as a valuable introduction into the often cutthroat world of filmmaking, one that nurtures student interest in the cinematic arts rather than deters it. “The festival,” Figa says, “is [ultimately] a warm, accessible, and community-based way to dip a toe into the festival submission/screening waters, which can be rough, expensive, and tedious.”
Photo by Sarah Jennings ’21.