March 20, 2006
SIUC graduates' film gets boost at Berlin festival
CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Two Southern Illinois University Carbondale graduates recently mingled with some of the foremost filmmakers in the world as their short film screened at a top global film festival.
Josh Hyde and Dan Fischer, both SIUC alumni, and Adam York, a Carbondale native, collaborated on the short narrative film, "Chicle," which screened in the children's division at Berlinale, the International Berlin Film Festival. The three are associates in Lofu Productions, which focuses on producing films that explore contemporary societal issues.
"Chicle" (pronounced "chee-clay" and in English, "Chewing Gum") tells the story of two brothers, Pablo and his older sibling Mano, who sell chewing gum at a street market in Peru. After finding the lost daughter of American tourists, Pablo wants to help reunite the girl with her parents, but Mano disagrees. The movie, shot in Peru over four months, explores innocence and understanding and how such concepts exist in the world today.
Hyde, a 2000 graduate in cinema and photography who co-produced the film with Fischer, said the film examines what happens when cultures collide in the ever-shrinking global arena. The 14-minute film is an abbreviated version of the feature-length piece they hope to do, and making the cut in Berlin might help them accomplish that task.
"It was a great honor to be there," Hyde said recently, after returning to Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, where he is pursuing a master of fine arts degree in film. "There were not many American filmmakers there, and the ones who were had content the festival was going for – movies pushing what mainstream cinema will allow, coming from a sincere need to stir humanity instead of just pure entertainment value."
Their film played at several U.S. festivals during 2005, including the Big Muddy Film Festival at SIUC. It won the Gold Hugo Award for Best Student Film at the Chicago International Film Festival and the award for Best Student Short at the Hamptons International Film Festival last fall, where it caught the notice of a programmer for the Berlinale.
"He invited us to submit it. It was very last-minute," Hyde said. "The theme of the Berlinale this year was about families in migration. Our film kind of speaks to this when it looks at the collision of cultures happening in the globalized world."
Berlinale started in 1951 as Germany struggled to rejoin the international community in the wake of World War II. Today, the festival is one of the German capital's preeminent cultural events and a top draw for international filmmakers. Organizers screen some 350 films during the two-week festival, which regularly sells some 150,000 tickets. Thousands of journalists and many thousands more from the film industry attend.
In February the group learned Berlinale accepted the film for the "Kinderfilmfest," or children's portion of the festival.
Just getting the film into submission status was a chore, and an expensive one at that. The filmmakers paid about $6,500 to transfer it from its original medium of Super 16 to high-definition video and finally to 35-millimeter film, which is the only format Berlinale will accept.
Although "Chicle" did not win a prize at the festival, more than 1,000 people saw it and Hyde hopes it will snag prize money at future festivals, some of which asked him to submit the film after seeing at Berlinale. He's also hoping the added exposure might help the three connect with potential backers who would finance the full-length version of the film, either in the United States or abroad.
Even if that never happens, however, Hyde believes in the film.
"We never thought we would get to do this," Hyde said. "We didn't make our film for the festival, but because of the story it told about what would happen if two kids from different cultures met and couldn't communicate. We are inundated with cultural misunderstanding these days. The only way to believe is by seeing things through the eyes of a child."
Hyde said he and Fischer learned the skills necessary to make such a film at SIUC, where they studied with top professionals.
"Southern was a big part of all this. When we started making films we had a very good foundation to build on after going to school at SIUC," he said. "We learned very sound methods to make films of value and how to do it in an independent way. We learned a good work ethic and good processes."
In addition to promoting "Chicle," the group also is working on a documentary about a Louisiana singer-songwriter who has gone through both the Iraq war and Hurricane Katrina. They've been shooting "Carry My Cross" for about six months and hope to have the film out this year.
Developing citizen-leaders with global perspectives is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint the University is following as it approaches its 150th anniversary in 2019.