Filmmakers from Fairbanks, Juneau, Sitka, Soldotna and Anchorage descended on Seward for their annual pilgrimage to the Balto Film Fest (BFF). Created to develop meaningful networking and workforce development opportunities in conjunction with anticipated curriculum for students of the Balto School at the Jesse Lee Home, the BFF has quickly made a reputation of being a filmmaker’s film fest.
An Adventure Filmmaking workshop offered by UAF Professor DB Palmer Friday night guided the Go Pro user to become a master storyteller, a skill that was aptly demonstrated that evening in a free screening sponsored by Red Bull of a film wildly regarded as the benchmark adventure documentary – Mount St. Elias.
A new competitive category, the Togo 24 Hour Sprint, had teams of filmmakers running around Seward creating one minute films from scratch based on the prompt “rain”. Businesses from the new Seward Library/Museum to the Van Guilder Hotel, Brown & Hawkins, Wells Fargo Bank, Marina Restaurant, Essential 1 Power Stop, Seward Visitor’s Center, Safeway, Seward Boat Harbor, Seward Alehouse, Thorn’s Showcase Lounge, Yukon Bar, Alaska Nellies Restaurant, and the Seward Senior Center were featured in these fast-paced shorts. Discipline in shooting and editing is demonstrated in this craft polishing exercise.
Togo 24 Hour Sprint Winners
Judges Choice: College Fund. Anchorage Team Bizzay: Zayn Roohi, Norberto DeJesus, Ryan Toney, Arslan Malik and Will Roman. Audience Choice: Raines Perfect Camping Site. Anchorage Som Ep’Laceak Media Team: Kyle Murphy, Olivia Murphy, Corliss Kimmel, Charles Baird, Marcus Hartman Mooers, Megan Mooers.
The Hallmark event of the festival, the Balto 49 Hour Film Challenge tests the filmmakers ability to judiciously tell a story within five minutes using three prompts. 48 Hour Film challenges are a standard category for competition, but unlike some other venues, the BFF takes extra care to be sure that the prompts don’t place unnecessary restrictions on the filmmakers. As a result, this year’s prompts of 8, water and home resulted in the creation of six very different film styles: sci fi, teen movie spook, modern translation of a Shakespearian drama, a modern translation of a Greek tragedy, family film, and a classic horror film entitled La Llorona.
Balto 49 Hour Film Challenge Winners
Judges Choice: Reset. Anchorage va Fairbanks Brig Films. Ben Ghalami and Macy Mann. Audience Choice: Annual Hike 2014. Soldotna Aaron Gordon, Justin Oleson, Linsey Kaufman, Megan Minogue, Caleb Murray. Extra credit given to this team for demonstrating that if you are creative you can shoot your film on an iPhone an win awards.
This year’s short category was heavily participated in, Saturday’s field spilled over into Sunday with Alaskan filmmakers demonstrating their range and high production values with some films years in the making. A panel of judges consisting of members of the Alaska State Legislature jury this event.
Balto Film Fest Best Short Winners
Judges Choice: Break in Reality. Tri-Seven Pictures D.K. Johnston. Break in Reality is the story of one man’s struggle to suppress his anger, and the consequences of bottling those feelings inside to the point of no return. Stars Christopher Beegle, Bryant Mainord and Levi Taylor. Audience Choice: Food Marcus Hartman Mooers. A few months after the end of society, brothers Marv and Rollo must decide if they should risk everything to help other survivors-or hole up and stay safe themselves. Stars Jasmine Allen, Forrest Andresen and Alex Bates.
A second new event this year, the Best Feature winners demonstrate the diversity that is present at this competition. For the Rights is a dramatized historical documentary that plays on PBS, Space Trucker Bruce is a comedy that celebrates its low budget – a fact that charmed the audience and sent members scurrying to discover where they could buy a copy.
Balto Film Fest Best Feature Winners
Judges Choice: For the Rights of All: Ending Jim Crow in Alaska. Blueberry Productions Jeff Silverman. The inspiring story of Alaska Natives, who through non-violent social change, overcame prejudice, disadvantage and blatant bigotry to win justice for all Alaskans. Stars Diane E. Benson, Peter Coyote, Thomas Mark Higgins.
Audience Choice: Space Trucker Bruce. Space Pirate Films Anton Doiron. A sci-fi comedy feature about surviving deadly encounters to deliver hog fat. Stars Karl Sears, Anton Doiron, Amelia Jenkins.
Alaska State Legislature Majority Leader Chris Tuck awarded the prizes, which included trophies by internationally renown carver Michael Scott of Sterling, Alaska and 2014 Balto Film Fest posters featuring a photograph by Alaska Pioneer Charles Baird. Tuck closed the festival asking filmmakers to stay engaged in the process of protecting and strengthening the Alaska State Film Tax Credit – and reminding them the importance of voting in the next election.