.Berkeley Video & Film Festival Starts this Weekend

The Berkeley Video and Film Festival doesn’t want to support “the Hollywood-mechanism,” as curator Mel Vapour said over a phone interview. This year’s festival once again presents affordable screenings of independent, award-winning films at the East Bay Media Center, an intimate performance space in Downtown Berkeley. The festival begins on Thursday, Oct. 30 with student film marathons for the first three days and has additional documentary, feature-length, short, animated, and experimental films showing Nov. 2 and Nov. 6-8.

[jump] Mel Vapour is the co-founder of the festival and the East Bay Media Center. With board members and filmmakers as his fellow jurors, he watches all of the approximately 100 submissions to curate the festival every year. Though there’s no official theme tying together this year’s picks, Vapour said that the loss of cultural diversity emerged organically as a common topic among the films. Features such as Bon in Dolpo and Language Matters deal with explicitly this issue. The latter features Charlie Mangulda, the last remaining speaker of Amurdak, an aboriginal language of Northern Australia.

With every annual film festival, the EBMC reinforces its role as a cultural support system for media arts in the community.
For the past few years, the event has included a portion that features student films from the USC School of Cinematic Arts, what Vapour calls “the future of the industry.”  Vapour invites Berkeley High School students to attend these days of the festival for free.

Vapour’s selections reflect the same youth-centric approach. For example, one of his recommendations is  The Age of Reason, a self-proclaimed hybrid of an “iconic teen coming-of-age” story, French New Wave aesthetics, and a mixture of brat-pack and Judd Apatow-style characters. Vapour said the film, made by Jordan Harris and  Bay Area local Andrew Schrader, is one of his favorites going into the festival, praising its acting, direction, editing, and even lighting.

Vapour has been an advocate for independent East Bay producers since the “camcorder revolution” in the late ’80s and early ’90s, and he has  sharp curatorial eye for both good video production and emerging local talent. “I don’t think the audience will be disappointed one bit,” he said. “The qualitative aspect of the films is very high this year, and this is the best festival we have produced.”

Single day tickets are $10 for general admission, $5 for students and seniors. Festival passes are $25 and, all tickets can be bought at the door or online. Buy tickets and read the full program here


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