After a three-year hiatus, the BYU film festival that proved to be a fertile breeding ground for “Napoleon Dynamite” returns Friday and Saturday.
“The festival is a great opportunity to show both students and the community beyond BYU what film students are capable of in the university’s film program,” said Jordan Petersen, president of the BYU Student Film Association. “BYU really does have a fantastic film program with a lot of very talented filmmakers.”
Known formally as the Final Cut Film Festival, the annual public screenings of student-produced motion picture shorts, commercials, animations and documentaries began in 2003. While still sponsored by the university’s theatre and media arts department, the festival is now more completely student-administered, Peterson says.
“The idea to reintroduce the festival came from Student Film Association members, but we as students needed to do more of the work necessary to make Final Cut a success, allowing our instructors more time to focus on their primary responsibilities,” Petersen said.
Following the enthusiastic response the short “Peluca” received at its Final Cut premiere, director Jared Hess scrapped together $4,000 to film “Napoleon Dynamite.” The full-length feature was invited to the Sundance Film Festival, and the town was abuzz (and inundated with "Vote for Pedro" stickers). The oddball comedy went on to make $46 million domestically — and actor Jon Heder became an instant star.
A second theatrical release, “Saints and Soldiers,” was developed after director/cinematographer Ryan Little’s “The Last Good War” won Best Picture at Final Cut (and later the prestigious student Emmy award).
More than 100 projects were submitted for festival consideration, Petersen says. Selection committees made up of both students and faculty viewed the entries to judge audience appeal, technical merit and creativity. The panels agreed on 30 films that will be screened at the festival.
Petersen believes at least two shorts, “Inspector 42” and “Jackie-O,” will prove popular with audiences.
“Inspector 42” is a comedy short about a 1950s shirt inspector who let a batch of faulty shirts pass inspection, leading to life-altering consequences. The film won two student Emmys, for director Nathan Lee and producer Lyvia Alaida Martinez.
“‘Jackie-O’ is a comedy with dramatic elements about a woman parole officer who expects the worst from the parolees she’s assigned,” explained filmmaker Jordan Harker. “We spent two years writing, planning, shooting, editing and doing all the aftereffects, and it will be great to have people laugh and genuinely responding to the film.”
Two separate programs, with alternate schedules so viewers can see each of the festival films, will be featured at the university’s Pardoe Theatre. Program A will be Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 9:30 p.m., while Program B will be Friday at 9:30 p.m. and Saturday at 7 p.m.
Tickets cost $5 and are available now at byuarts.com/tickets or 801-422-4322.
Blair Howell is a freelance editor and writer.