The stories are as diverse as their filmmakers: A girl trying to get out from under the thumb of an overbearing mother. An American taking an unexpected journey on his way to joining the Israeli military. A teenager getting a new perspective on her grandmother. A dancer fleeing an abusive relationship. A struggling actor going on an imaginative journey with a terminally ill child.
The public is invited to explore these cinematic stories and preview the talents of the next generation of filmmakers on Wednesday, May 3, at California State University, Northridge’s 27th annual Senior Film Showcase at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
The showcase, which concludes years of study for the university’s senior-level film students, is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. in the academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater, located at 8949 Wilshire Blvd. in Beverly Hills. The evening’s host will be acclaimed actor and director Bill Duke.
Cinema and television arts professor Nate Thomas, head of CSUN’s film option, said the films in the showcase represent the best of CSUN’s program.
“For the student filmmakers being honored on May 3, this will be the first public presentation of their work, and the response to their projects by the public will be the first test of their endeavors,” Thomas said. “This year’s films have some ‘for sure’ award winners [on the film festival circuit], and you will be hearing a lot more in the future from these talented filmmakers.”
Thomas noted that the filmmakers featured at the showcase are all Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) Fellows and were able to complete their projects in the university’s upgraded HFPA film editing, ADR/Foley and surround-sound mixing facilities — all made possible as part of last year’s $2 million gift to the department from the association.
“The association has been a longtime supporter of our film students and their work,” Thomas said. “For 21 years, the HFPA has generously helped fund our senior film project and facilities with an aggregate amount of $1 million, in addition to their wonderful $2 million gift last year.”
The HFPA’s donations to the university provide only seed money for the senior film projects. The students are responsible for raising any additional funds needed and are given creative freedom in their productions, Thomas said.
The following five films are featured in the showcase:
• “Feis,” directed by Ellen Mulvihill, tells the story of a girl’s struggle for independence from an overbearing mother, while she trains for the Irish Dance World Championship.
• “Ben-Dod Sheli,” directed by Daniel Yonathan, follows a young American intent on joining the Israeli Defense Forces in the West Bank, who takes an unsuspecting ride in a stolen cab.
• “Golden Age,” directed by Jermey Pair, explores what happens when a self-absorbed teenager visits her grandmother, who suffers from dementia, and is drawn into a 1940s adventure film her grandmother starred in as a young woman.
• “Relevé,” directed by Desiree Castro, chronicles a ballet dancer’s struggle to overcome an abusive relationship.
• “Jack & Me,” directed by Sean Boring, explores what happens when a struggling actor meets a terminally ill boy who takes him on a fantastical, imaginative journey.
Duke, the evening’s host, is known for his physically imposing 6-foot-4-inch frame and quiet presence. His on-screen work includes numerous action films, such as “Predator” and “Commando,” playing opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger; “Exit Wound,” co-starring Steven Seagal; and “Bird on a Wire” and “Paycheck,” with Mel Gibson. He also appeared in “X-Men: The Last Stand,” “National Security” and “Get Rich or Die Tryin.” Duke also appeared in the critically acclaimed “Menace II Society.”
As an African-American filmmaker, Duke is regarded as a trailblazer, having directed “A Rage in Harlem,” starring Forest Whitaker; “Deep Cover,” starring Laurence Fishburne and Jeff Goldblum; and “Hoodlum,” starring Fishburne, Tim Roth and Andy Garcia. He also directed the box-office hit “Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit,” starring Whoopi Goldberg. In addition, Duke has directed hundreds of hours of episodic television, include some classics such as the original “Dallas.” Duke was recently honored with a lifetime achievement tribute by the Directors Guild of America.