SYCAMORE – The credits have rolled on the Sycamore Film Festival and organizers already are planning for next year’s.
The second outing of the film festival, which ran Friday to Sunday at the Sycamore Theater, was larger than in its debut a year ago, and “We want to expand,” said Megan Johnson, co-director of operations. “We want to bring in new films. We want to bring in more feature films, definitely. We want to see all kinds of different genres. We’re hoping to add more categories.”
Audiences could pick and choose among five full-length feature films, eight student films, six documentaries, six short films, six educational short films and four foreign short films.
Joy K. Jones, a senior at Columbia College in Chicago, directed two student films that played each day of the festival. In both, “Grandma’s Peer Pressure” and “What About Chrissy,” Jones drew on her and her friends’ experiences.
The main character in “Grandma’s Peer Pressure” has to deal with a grandmother who constantly badgers her into finding a boyfriend after seeing her granddaughter turn away a guy. Like Jones, the main character is a devout Christian, which plays a role in her steadfast refusal to “date around” as her grandmother suggests.
“She was pressuring me,” Jones said. “It got so bad, I couldn’t even be around her at some points. Like I have to leave, I can’t take it.”
Jones’ other film, “What About Chrissy,” draws on the experience of a classmate. In the eight-minute film, a father confronts his ex-wife about the safety of his daughter, Chrissy.
Jones said her classmate was in Chrissy’s position and believed she was responsible for her parents’ divorce.
“Grandma’s Peer Pressure” received an honorable mention for student films at the festival awards ceremony Saturday night.
The winner in student films was “The October Crisis” – a movie about two brothers who contemplate killing a Catholic priest who may or may not have molested their youngest brother. Co-director Marc Wilkinson said he was inspired by Quentin Tarantino’s film “Inglourious Basterds” to show a different take on violence and dehumanization.
“The way that it really glorifies violence and romanticizes the idea of revenge, and makes revenge sound like it’s OK if you completely villainize your enemy and take away their humanity, that was a problem with me,” Wilkinson said. “It just kind of stuck with me and I didn’t know what to do with that. So I started writing and ended up wanting to write something that was the opposite of that.”
Wilkinson said he initially wrote a full-length film, and what’s seen in “The October Crisis” comes about halfway through it. Asked whether the priest really did molest the youngest brother and was killed in revenge, Wilkinson became coy and declined to say.
“That’s the joy,” he said. “Hopefully, someone someday will give me the budget to make a feature film and we’ll get those answers.”
Wilkinson’s film won the festival’s best student film award. Other award winners included “REFUGE: Stories of the Self help Home,” which won best documentary and best of fest; “Wooing Wes Wilson,” best short film; and “Gravel Metric 1, 2 & 3,” best educational short film. Johnson said no film was awarded best foreign film because none of the directors were able to make it to Sycamore.
“Wooing Wes Wilson” director Thad Vassmer said his film is based on real characters – specifically, his daughter’s “quirky” friends.
“I wrote a film around these kids,” Vassmer said.
Each of the directors spoke positively of their festival experience. Vassmer, a Kingston resident, said he didn’t realize the festival existed until the mother of one of his actresses texted him about it.
“To drive 15 minutes from my home to be able to meet filmmakers all around the country, it kind of inspires you and it kind of revs you up,” Vassmer said.
Wilkinson had a much longer commute. A graduate of Columbia College in Chicago, the festival organizers flew Wilkinson from Los Angeles and put him up at a hotel for the festival. Johnson said
Thanks to the festival sponsors, organizers were able to bring in directors from both coasts and one from England, Johnson said.
The festival debuted “Wired: The DeKalb Documentary,” directed by Shela Lahey, the festival’s founder and executive director. Johnson said reaction to film was overwhelmingly positive.
She said “Wired” will be sold at select DeKalb and Sycamore stores, including Sweet Earth, 341 W. State St. in Sycamore; Lehan Drugs, 1407 S. 4th St. in DeKalb; Inboden’s Meats, 1106 N. 1st St. in DeKalb; and Moxie, 230 E. Lincoln Highway in DeKalb.