University News

Wes Craven to headline Ivy Film Festival

Brad Simpson ‘95, producer of ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ and ‘World War Z’ will also speak

Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, April 4, 2013

Cold-blooded murderers, rock-and-roll has-beens and undercover spies are among the diverse individuals featured in this year’s Ivy Film Festival selections. IFF released its annual screening and event lineup, which will run April 8 to 14, on the group’s website Wednesday.

The keynote speaker this year is Wes Craven, director of iconic horror films such as “Scream,” “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and “The Hills Have Eyes.” A midnight screening of “Scream” — sponsored by the Late Night Fund — will precede the keynote address.

“He is the master of horror, especially for our generation,” said Evan Sumortin ’13, IFF executive director. “He is a visionary.”

Many of the films in this year’s canon are drawn from Sundance Film Festival and were obtained through IFF’s relationship with Fox Searchlight Films, said Mahima Chawla ’13, co-director of IFF. Chawla said she is most excited for “The Way, Way Back,” a coming-of-age comedy to be screened at the Avon Monday. It was well received at Sundance, she said, adding that it should appeal to the Brown community.

The IFF program provides a platform for important documentaries to reach a college audience, Sumortin said. Among these documentaries is the Javier Bardem-narrated “Sons of the Clouds,” which explores the human price of colonialism in the Western Sahara of Africa, a region that now encompasses Morocco.

Another documentary, “Searching for Sugar Man,” recounts the tale of two South African fans who try to track down ’70s rock star Sixto Rodriguez.

“It’s going to be the sort of capstone for our ‘Stories for Change’ series,” Sumortin said. “Stories for Change” is a succession of documentary screenings sponsored by IFF that has been taking place throughout the academic year to inspire debate about contentious films.

“After Tiller” follows the lives and daily struggles of the four currently remaining late-term abortion doctors following the 2009 assassination of physician George Tiller, and demonstrates the role of film in exploring difficult subject matter, Sumortin said. It highlights a controversial topic on which students have strong opinions, making it an ideal festival pick, he added.

This year, a panel discussion will emphasize the role of the producer in development, finance and marketing of a film, he said. “A lot of people don’t really understand what the producer does,” he added.

Speakers will include Christine Vachon ’83, producer of Oscar-nominated “Far From Heaven,” Brad Simpson ’95, producer of “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” and this summer’s “World War Z,” and Michael Shamberg, producer of Oscar-nominated “Django Unchained,” “Garden State” and “Pulp Fiction.”

“This is a heavyweight panel,” Sumortin said.

Among other featured guests is Mira Nair, director of “The Reluctant Fundamentalist,” one of the festival’s feature film screenings, which IFF will co-sponsor with the Brown International Organization. The film, starring Kate Hudson, Kiefer Sutherland and Liev Schreiber, focuses on themes of culture, race and gender, Sumortin said.

Mark Heyman ’02 will lead an hour-long master class in screenwriting for the festival. He will examine particular passages of his first major feature, “Black Swan” and describe the process of translating writing to the screen.

Heyman has a valuable perspective on breaking into the industry to lend to student filmmakers because he is so young, Sumortin said.

“All filmmakers started out somewhere as students,” James said.

The range of speakers this year demonstrates the focus the festival has placed on directors and producers, Chawla said, adding that in the past, the emphasis has instead been placed on actors.

The series of screenings this year focuses on underexposed but deserving independent films, Sumortin said.

The Ivy Film Festival also aims to allow student filmmakers to connect with filmmakers and the film industry, he added.

The official selections of the festival are a series of student films from around the world divided into four viewing blocks over the course of the festival, Chawla said.

Each time block contains a sampling of what submissions were received, and they vary in length and genre, said Erica James ’14, IFF publicity coordinator. They provide a taste of each film category — graduate, animation, experimental, comedy, international, 48-hour, documentary and drama.

The diversity of these films provides a range of perspectives and demonstrates the array of stories that can be told through cinema, Chawla said.

Curated from hundreds of submissions from 80 colleges and universities in 21 countries, the films foster a “creative culture” through networking between student filmmakers, Sumortin said.

IFF’s 25-person programming staff, members of which were all selected for their experience with film selection or film in general, selected 28 films out of the pool of approximately 300 submissions, a record for the festival. This group also picks the winner for each film category, the awards for which are presented at a private awards ceremony following the keynote address Sunday.


A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” as a documentary. In fact, it is a full-length feature film. The Herald regrets the error.


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  1. Keenly looking forward to the release of Mira Nair’s latest film-The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

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