Olivia Antsis: Traditionally, the festival was centered in the Rittenhouse Square area and Society Hill, but we made the conscious decision a few years ago to spread out the film screenings as much as we could to the different populations of the city. For instance, West Philadelphia has a lot of students, and so in order to diversify and get the word out about the festival, we have festival screenings at International House. And we love being there because having students at the screenings is incredibly positive, and they are always very enthusiastic. The festival has even extended out to the suburbs with screenings now located at the Hiway Theater in Jenkintown and the Bryn Mawr Film institute.
OA: For the past few years we’ve been trying to integrate shorts into our lineup. It’s important because a lot of the shorts are made by first-time filmmakers, or students, and I think showing shorts allow filmmakers to gain exposure and gain a confidence in themselves to continue making films. And we also like it because it’s a totally different aesthetic. The challenge of telling a story in a ten minute film as opposed to a 90 minute film, it takes a different kind of storytelling ability, and it’s interesting to see how one takes a concept and interprets it in a unique way.
C: How do you pair up the opening shorts with there feature?
OA: Sometimes we get a short that is so amazing we try to find a feature to go with it! It’s rare, but most of the time we have this pool of shorts that we choose from, and we try and select films that match the themes and aesthetics that we are interested in exploring and sharing throughout the festival. There is an art to choosing a shorts lineup in general, but in terms of pairing, we usually find the feature and then find a short that connects on some level. Sometimes the connections are looser, for instance with Famous Nathan’s we are pairing it this year with Wilt Chamberlain’s Bellhop, the connection there being New York history. And also the idea of transformation, with the pairing of The Sturgeon Queens, which is a film about Russ and Daughters’ fish shop transformation over the years, and 70 Hester Street about the synagogue on the Lower East Side going through its own transformation.
C: Women also play a prominent focus in this year’s films, was that conscious, or a result of what is currently out there?
OA: Definitely both! We are seeing more women filmmakers that are making amazing films, but it kind of happened organically. As you are programming, there are all of these connections that you are thinking about and making an effort to present in the final lineup and it’s only later that we see all of the unconscious connections that are also being created simultaneously. So when I look at our lineup this year, I see a very organic transition from one film to the next, and I think ‘Identity’ is what connects these films in one way or another.