Inaugural Dayton Film Festival a success

UD students attend the first ever Dayton Independent Film Festival at the Dixie Drive-in, photo courtesy of Dave Larson.

Mallory Boring 
Arts & Entertainment Staff Writer

The first ever Dayton Independent Film Festival hosted by the University of Dayton department of communication ran Sept. 25-28.

The majority of the festival was virtual due to the pandemic; however, a select number of short films were shown at the Dixie Twin Drive-In Sept. 28. 

Photo of the Dixie Drive-in sign courtesy of Dave Larson.

The in-person screening event opened with a local short about Bill’s Donut Shop. Bill’s which is located in Centerville, Ohio is a local staple and is ranked the second-best donut shop in America.

The film titled “Bill’s Donuts: Family Run and Community Focused,” looks at what makes Bill’s so special. 

The University of Dayton Documentary Production Course submitted “Dayton’s Darkest Summer: The Rise from Tragedy.”

>> RELATED: First Dayton Independent Film Festival to take place this fall

The short documentary covers two tragic events that impacted Dayton in 2019. It begins with the Memorial Day tornados that caused a lot of damage in the area and resulted in one death. Then, it shifts focus to the Oregon District shooting that took place on Aug. 4, 2019. 

The documentary highlights the perspectives and experiences of a few Daytonians, including Mayor Nan Whaley and University of Dayton basketball player Trey Landers.

At the end, interviewers showed how Dayton had overcome these tragedies by asking each person who appeared in the documentary to describe Dayton in one word.

The most common answer was resilient.

The documentary won the award for best local film.

Three of the films shown at the closing event revolved around the LGBTQ+ community and LGBTQ+ issues. The film “A Heart’s Calling” directed by Sam Brooks focuses on a man who is isolated from his family and religious community for being gay.

>> MORE: REVIEW: “Dayton’s Darkest Summer: The Rise from Tragedy”

Conrad Alejandro Faraj’s submission “Don’t Tell Mama”, which received the award for best fiction film, tells the coming-out story of a man who is concerned about his mother’s reaction. Each of the films ended on a positive note with the characters finding acceptance and love. 

The third film examining LGBTQ+ issues is darker. The social thriller “35” follows Tonia Stanwell, a trans woman, as she attempts to make it to her 36th birthday. As Tonia travels through a government building, she accrues injuries. The title of and message behind the film is that 35 is the average life expectancy for trans women. “35” was awarded as the best of the festival by a student.

Essay-style documentary “Redacted” by Naeema Jamilah Torres won the best documentary award. In the documentary she travels around New Orleans learning about a slave rebellion that one of her ancestors helped to lead. Torres reflects on her own experiences with race and compares them to those of her ancestor, adding to the power the film carries. 

Photo of cars at the Dayton Film Festival at the Dixie Drive-in, courtesy of Dave Larson.

Other awards given out by the festival were best in festival and best unconventional film.

The award for best of the festival went to director Sadie Rogers for the film “How is this the World.” The film is set in the future where a mother searches through a virtual reality to find her son.

The film “Division” was awarded best unconventional film. It is set in an alternate reality where human reproduction is a new human growing off another and ending in a painful separation of the two bodies. The film follows a man through this alternative reproductive process. 

The Dayton Independent Film Festival managed to put on an interesting and successful festival despite the challenges presented by COVID-19.

The in-person screening at the Dixie Twin Drive-In allowed for a sense of normalcy while adhering to social distancing. This year’s success distinguishes the Dayton Film Festival as an event to look forward to in the future.