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Ivy Film Festival to screen Official Selection, speaker series virtually

Amidst COVID-19 pandemic, IFF’s new digital format to include live-streamed question-and-answer sessions with industry professionals, screening of Official Selection

How do you execute the world’s largest student-run film festival amidst a global pandemic? Like many things these days: Move online. 

The Ivy Film Festival announced Monday that this year’s festival will take place digitally from April 24 to April 30. The festival will screen the Official Selection online and will feature a Digital Speaker Series.  

The directors of the Ivy Film Festival – Grace Attanasio ’21, Nora Graham ’20, Sasha Pinto ’21 and Karina Rotenstreich ’20 – have taken the change in stride, hoping to “provide moments of relief and reunion” to students at Brown and other university scattered around the globe, Pinto wrote in an email to The Herald.

The team of directors began shifting their platform immediately after the University announced a suspension of on-campus events of 100 people or more March 6.  Realizing that the festival could no longer continue in its traditional format, the directors still wanted to “preserve the platform that (IFF provides) these student filmmakers and screenwriters as best as possible,” Rotenstreich said.  

“What festivals do at their core is provide a place for young, emerging creatives – a lot of the time, first-time filmmakers – to share their stories. That’s how they get noticed and get their films out there,” Rotenstreich added.

With that in mind, the directors started by considering the question: “How can we make sure that we still get those stories out there?” she added.

The IFF team has built a password-protected screening site to display the student screenplays, short films and virtual reality videos from the Official Selection. Passwords to view the selected pieces “will go out via our normal Eventbrite ticketing. So we can control who has access to it, but anyone who wants to see it can,” Rotenstreich said. 

This year’s festival will also include a speaker series, consisting of live-streamed question-and-answer sessions with industry professionals. The list of speakers is currently under wraps but will be revealed on Monday. 

During these discussions, “We’re offering the speakers the chance to promote a philanthropic organization of their choice, just as a way to do anything we can to make a difference and use the platform positively,” Graham said.

For example, one guest speaker, who is a board member of a voting rights organization, will be talking about bipartisan division amid the pandemic. Voting “has been a really big issue right now because we’re unable to get to the polls; people are trying to institute mandatory votes by mail. There’s all this insane partisan drama over this basic right of all Americans. … It’s related to COVID but also is a general issue,” Rotenstreich said. 

Giving back to the Providence community was key to the IFF team when shifting the festival platform online. “It was really important to us and integral to putting it online that we support our community, because at the end of the day, although we’re going virtual, Providence and Rhode Island have been our home,” Attanasio said. 

So, while the festival remains free and open to the public, the IFF team encourages viewers to make contributions to the Rhode Island Free Clinic, a nonprofit organization that provides health care services to uninsured individuals. “They need help more than ever right now,” Attanasio added.

Before the pandemic, the IFF team had been working on “evolving the way we conceive IFF as a platform,” Rotenstreich said. They rewrote their mission statement to “reflect the notion that we are trying to prop up student voices because they represent the future of film. We’re trying to curate this vision of the industry for the next generation – the Hollywood that we all want to see. It’s moving in the right direction, but there are definitely still great strides to be made.”

The organization, comprising 119 students across ten different teams, has not let the pandemic slow its mission of amplifying young creative voices and giving back to the Providence community. “None of this would be possible without our extraordinary coordinators who run the 10 different teams at IFF, as well as every single member of every team who, even in the midst of this world crisis, have dedicated themselves wholeheartedly to making our reimagined virtual festival better than ever,” Pinto wrote. 

While the festival was quickly adjusted to fit the virtual format, adapting to the unexpected change wasn’t easy. “We all definitely shed some tears. I think that we can hopefully still do something meaningful and make the impact that we know we can make with this festival, even when it is online,” Graham said.

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