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BIFF vs COVID

Beloit International Film Festival (BIFF) had just finished its 16th season with many film submissions to view. However, this was their first time making an entirely online festival, which involved streaming films and interaction with filmmakers around the world. BIFF celebrates by bringing films from all genres, such as features, documentaries, shorts, and new this season their inclusion of music videos.

In the past, BIFF has had the time and venue space to provide viewings for attendees to view films and also sit down for Q&As with the filmmakers and get a sense of what it takes to put films together and the intentions shown on screen. This year BIFF had to radically change in order to follow the COVID restrictions to help prevent further spread.

From February 19th to February 28th this Ten-day online festival includes many virtual activities as well as still normalizing the experience with drive-in screenings. BIFF created a streaming service to help showcase the films from home. Including hundreds of films to view at your fingertips as given for a subscriber with a festival pass. Once these films have been watched there are plenty of other activities film lovers can enjoy.

Some of the virtual activities BIFF held were filmmaker workshops that were open to the public. Along with workshops, there were several filmmaker Q&A sessions, all hosted by filmmakers from three different films. Executive Director Greg Gerard hosted a talk show titled The Not-So-Late show where he sat down informally with guests and conversed about the film. One special event was a sit-down talk with famous award-winning film composer Rachel Portman, in which she composed films including Chocolat, The Vow, and One Day. All these virtual chats are still accessible on the BIFF website as well as on BIFF’s facebook and youtube page.

The drive-in screenings show a range of films from the silent film Modern Times and a Wizard of Oz sing along to recent films like Isle of Dogs and Kubo and the Two Strings for the kids.

As an intern for BIFF, I was included with the festival by assisting with the drive-in presentations, as well as moderating a couple of filmmaker Q&A sessions. The films in my session were mainly short films but also including one feature, music video, and documentary. Of the four I’ve watched and moderated, the two enjoyed the most was a documentary titled We Left as Brothers, following six Vietnam veterans returning to Vietnam in over 40 years and revisiting past battlefields reliving the moments and coming to peace with their experiences. The other was a short film named Samaritan, about an immigrant doctor living off the grid and stumbles upon an unconscious racist politician that he later tries to help heal.

Overall the festival found ways to overcome the difficulty of finding ways to showcase the talented works of filmmakers around the world. Virtual capabilities allowed BIFF to have a successful 16th season.

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