First timers, second chances

Virgins & Rejects, a new festival established at the Art Institute of California in San Francisco, features 20 entries — first films and films rejected by other festivals. As festival director and faculty member Richard Walsh says, “One person’s reject is another person’s diamond.”

How did this unusual festival come about? The school wanted to offer an elective class on organizing a film festival. We started off by profiling all the accredited international film festivals, and the class also attended the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, the Q&As and different panels. The first thing that came up in class discussion is that a lot of schools run things called festivals that are really more in-house screenings, and we didn’t want to do that. Through a democratic process, we narrowed it down to creating a festival for what one student called “first-timers and second chances.”

What was the selection process like? Using some objectivity guidelines I created, the 27 students in the class were the jury. It’s a culturally diverse group, including students from France, Rwanda, Thailand and the Philippines. The tough part was they’re all filmmakers, I’m a filmmaker, but we didn’t want it to be just about our work. We decided that no class member could be the writer or director of any of the festival entries.

Why should audiences come see films labeled “rejects”? Our whole notion was that there are a lot of great films that don’t get seen because of the politics of some festivals, or the intense competition, or the strict festival rules like, “if it’s been around for a year and half, we won’t take it.” Richard Linklater’s “Slacker” was rejected for the 1990 Sundance festival and other domestic festivals.  Only after Linklater self-released it in Austin, and the Seattle festival picked it up, was it accepted for Sundance ’91. The films in Virgins & Rejects are very raw, not technically, but in being more unpretentious, closer to the filmmaker’s heart.

What are some of the highlights? “Le Montage De Mes Reves” (“The Edit of My Dreams”) playfully explores just what film is; “Gearhead” is a great stop-motion piece; the surreal “Serenity” suggests real promise in the filmmaker. One that stands out is the fun and quirky “Frank’s Mug,” about a man’s relationship with his favorite coffee mug that takes a disturbing turn. — Mara Math

 

IF YOU GO

Virgins & Rejects Film Festival

Where: Victoria Theater, 2961 16th St., San Francisco

When: 6 to 9 p.m. today

Tickets: $5 to $8

Contact: (415) 863-7576

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