Texas Union Film Festival screens 11 student-made films

Mary Cantrell

This year’s Texas Union Film Festival submissions include a thriller about a Minotaur, a documentary following the UT Quidditch team, and a comedy about a troublesome cat.

The festival, now in its sixth year, is a screening that features 11 short films UT students of all majors made. Each film last 10 minutes and will play back to back for about an hour and a half.

Blaine Brezina, radio-television-film and studio art sophomore and co-director of the festival, said the quality of the submissions was much higher than he’s seen in previous years. He said the festival committee chose 11 films based on the merit of the cinematography and engagement level of the story line. 

Brezina said the festival gives student-filmmakers a chance to show their work to a live audience. 

“This is like an incubator for the directors to kind of see where their films lie and what they need to work on for making them more audience friendly,” Brezina said. 

Radio-television-film junior Thomas Houser’s short, “And if I Die,” one of the festival’s picks, is a non-dialogue narrative set in 1942 about two World War II soldiers. 

“It’s a story about an internal battle with your emotions as opposed to it being a war film,” Houser said.

Houser, a self-proclaimed history buff, said he had to conduct research for the film in order to be historically accurate. To stay true to his vision, he rented World War II costumes and guns and then decided to film on a ranch. 

“As students, I feel like we limit ourselves to sticking with modern-day times because that’s easier for us,” Houser said. “So this was a really fun experience for me because I got to do something I’m really interested in as opposed to doing something kind of normal.” 

Houser said his acceptance to the festival has not only enhanced his college and film experience, but it assured him that his career is on the right path.   

“It’s a really good feeling to know that other people are going to see your work ’cause you can post it online, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anyone’s going to see it,” Houser said. “And with this industry, the more exposure that you have is really what’s going to separate you.” 

Radio-television-film graduate student Joel Fendelman wrote and directed “Auction,” which centers around a cattle auction in the small, rural Gonzales, Texas. Fendelman, who grew up in Miami and has lived in large cities for most of his life, said filming “Auction” offered a chance to explore a topic that was alien to him. 

“I generally stick with the theme of exploring things I don’t know about,” Fendelman said. “I feel like I was able to glimpse a receding way of life.”

Fendelman said he focuses on exploring different cultures and customs in his films to show people they are all the same at the core. 

“I try to focus on my strengths by tapping into the subtleties and subtextual things, diving into worlds and having a very anthropological look,” Fendelman said. “The underlying objective being that we connect with people — these are people just like us.” 

The festival takes place Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Texas Union Theatre. Brezina, Houser and Fendelman said they are eager to engage with the community of young filmmakers. 

“This is a way for the students that are interested in film that are not from the radio-television-film department to come and see films that they wouldn’t otherwise see and support their fellow longhorns in their artistic endeavors,” Brezina said.