Reading a good novel often prompts readers to wonder what the story would be like as a feature film. This tendency isn’t just a marker of the importance of what is digital and visual; it’s a reminder of how culture and technology are intertwined.
Filmmakers, poets, readers, and viewers will honor this union of culture and technology and celebrate the hybrid form of the cinepoem on Wednesday, April 21, with the MSU Filmetry Festival’s free live-streamed premiere of 18 short films adapted from work in the anthology Voices Amidst the Virus. This year’s festival includes films made by MSU students, faculty, and staff, as well as other filmmakers outside the MSU community. The live premiere will stream on YouTube at 7 p.m.
Voices Amidst the Virus, edited by Eileen Cleary and Christine Jones and published by Lily Poetry Review, is a collection of poems from poets across the country that represents a rich variety of responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The process of making art contributes to our shared sense of humanity, and the varied experiences with COVID-19 give filmmakers rich opportunities to explore the impact of the virus,” said Peter Johnston, MSU Filmetry Festival Co-Founder and Film Studies Professor who specializes in digital media and film production methods and who manages the Film Studies Program’s lab space and equipment. “We are really excited to be able to work with this anthology, which helps us create a thematic thread throughout the films, and we’re excited to be able to share a free online streaming premiere, which gives us a chance to reach a wider audience.”
The process of making art contributes to our shared sense of humanity, and the varied experiences with COVID-19 give filmmakers rich opportunities to explore the impact of the virus.Peter Johnston, MSU Filmetry Festival Co-Founder and Film Studies Professor
The MSU Filmetry Festival gives students in the MSU Film Studies Program a chance to promote new and deeply relevant work as well as opportunities to work as peers with other artists and to share their work on the same platform as faculty, staff, and other professional filmmakers. It also connects students with artists working in other genres.
This year’s festival provides a particularly important opportunity to celebrate the role of art in our lives and honor the ways filmmakers and poets can collaborate.
“Filmmakers are engaged with thinking about what exerts can influence on our world, and the poems in this new anthology are engaged with this work, too,” said Cindy Hunter Morgan, Festival Co-Founder who heads up communications for MSU Libraries and who also teaches poetry in the Department of English. “Art helps us imagine and re-imagine our own lives and the lives of others, and it’s important not just to document our experiences during the pandemic, but also to turn these experiences into art. It’s also important to collaborate, particularly during the pandemic, when so many people feel isolated. This has been a great way to build community.”
The idea for the MSU Filmetry Festival was formed in Fall 2018 by Johnston and Hunter Morgan, and each year the festival has offered participants something new. This year, the festival continues to expand in meaningful ways to help build relationships across the campus community and across communities of artists.
Art helps us imagine and re-imagine our own lives and the lives of others, and it’s important not just to document our experiences during the pandemic, but also to turn these experiences into art.Cindy Hunter Morgan, MSU Filmetry Festival Co-Founder and Department of English Faculty
Hunter Morgan asked students in her Introduction to Poetry Writing (ENG 229) class to write poems informed by their experiences with the pandemic. Students then were invited, though not required, to share those poems with Johnston’s film students in his Introduction to Digital Media Production (FLM 260) class, who adapted the poems into films. Two of those films, based on two of the poems, will be included in the MSU Filmetry Festival premiere on April 21.
Maddie Katz, Media and Information major, adapted the “2020 Vision” poem by Natalie Mannino, English and Psychology major. Of this piece, Johnston and Hunter Morgan said, “this work stands out in part because of Natalie’s incisive but melancholy language and Maddie’s big-hearted visual interpretation.”
Marketing and Film Studies major Carlos Lundback’s version of English major Loren Rascoe’s poem “Neverland” also was selected for inclusion in the 2021 Filmetry Festival. Johnston and Hunter Morgan agreed that “Loren’s vision of the trauma of the pandemic as seen through a child’s eyes and Carlos’s cinematic interpretation of the poem pushed this to the top, too.”
This year marks the third year for the MSU Filmetry Festival, which was first presented in January 2019. The 2020 event was to be held in Wells Hall, home of the MSU Film Studies Program, but was rescheduled as an online live-streamed event due to COVID-19.
For more information on the festival and to view a selection of films from previous MSU Filmetry Festivals, go to the MSU Filmetry Festival web page.