May 09--On Friday night, Abe Zverow will be one of nearly 6,000 University of Arizona undergraduates receiving degrees at Arizona Stadium.
On Saturday night, he will be one of 17 young filmmakers honored at the Fox Tucson Theatre.
"I Dream in Widescreen" is a showcase of bachelor of fine arts thesis films from students at the University of Arizona School of Theatre, Film and Television.
The free screening is open to the public and is expected to draw more than 1,000 people.
The films are short -- most are five to 10 minutes long -ambitious, creative, and incredibly diverse.
"I feel like every year the bar gets set higher," said Zverow, 23, who filmed his documentary last fall in Ecuador. "I definitely feel like it's an especially good class."
"Jonathan," Zverow's 8-minute film about an engaging 12-year-old boy who works long days at a market to help support his family and dreams of becoming a police officer, is the only documentary this year.
Julie Etheridge's compelling mockumentary, "Dad's Space Mission," follows a man's campaign for help to to send his father's cremated remains into space.
Some films display stunning technical expertise.
"There's an Octopus in Your Head" is Ari Grabb's riveting animated rock opera "about a self proclaimed pancake master who constantly asks the devil about life's greatest mysteries."
"Grey State," Brad Wong's sci-fi thriller about a future where the government captures and exploits people with psychic abilities, evokes the mood and tone of "Blade Runner."
Saturday's showcase is the culmination of an intense 2 1/2-year program. Students apply in their sophomore year, and at most only 20 are selected.
Many started writing their thesis projects over the summer and then filmed through the fall. They spent the spring fine-tuning.
The students form close bonds, encouraging one another and collaborating on projects. "We have a lot of other things going on" outside of class, said Zverow, who came to the UA from Chicago to study film.
Last Friday, "The Test," a film that Zverow worked on with classmate Ethan Moore won the "First Friday Shorts: The Golden Gongs Year-End Showdown" at the Loft Cinema. "It's been a super exciting week,"Zverow said.
While noting that the technology of filmmaking improves "exponentially" each year, Zverow took a low-key approach when he filmed in Ecuador.
He had a general idea of what he wanted to film, and talked with several people before focusing on Jonathan, the boy who wakes at 3 a.m. to work in the market before school.
"He was so nice and warm right off the bat," he said. The boy's mother was also welcoming and allowed Zverow to stay in their home.
Zverow, like most of his classmates, will try to enter his film in the festival circuit. He also hopes it is a springboard for a feature-length film, and would like to return to Ecuador to tell more people's stories.
Saturday's showcase will include the awarding of the FotoKem New Filmmaker Award, which carries a grand prize of $5,000 in film services that the winning director can use to jump-start the next project.
It also offers critical recognition at a pivotal moment in a filmmaker's career.
This year's jurors include Claudette Godfrey, the shorts programmer for the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas; Brenda Lhormer, director of the Napa Valley Film Festival; and Kathleen McInnis, film curator and director of industry programming for the Palm Springs ShortsFest.
Local Summer Film Highlights
The importance of eating a plant-based diet -- to improve your health and to make the world a better place -- is the focus of a series of free documentaries that will screen this summer.
"Vegucated," described as part sociological experiment and part adventure comedy, is presented by the Healthy You Network, Consuming for Change and Lovin' Spoonfuls Vegetarian Restaurant, and screens May 19 at the Loft Cinema.
The documentary follows three meat- and cheese-loving New Yorkers who agree to adopt a vegan diet for six weeks, according to the film's synopsis. While initially motivated to lose a few pounds, they begin to learn more about animal agriculture and eventually discover "they can change the world one bite at a time."
"Forks Over Knives" follows June 18, and "Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home" on July 23. The films start at 7 p.m. at the Loft, 3233 E. Speedway. Learn more at healthyyounetwork.org
-- The Loft (www.loftcinema.com) keeps busy year-round with new releases and special events each week.
Next month, look for the Studio Ghibli series, featuring films created at the Japanese animation studio that is best known for its anime features. The films, shown throughout June, will include a work by acclaimed director Hayao Miyazaki. Jeff Yanc, the Loft's program director, noted that a Miyazaki series in January drew huge crowds.
Reserve July 20-28 for the Loft's Tucson International Children's Film Festival, which has become a tradition for many families. It features nine days of children's films and games, along with preshow activities hosted by the Tiggys. Admission and popcorn are free.
-- The historic Fox Tucson Theatre, 17 W. Congress St. (www.foxtucsontheatre.org), continues to be a premiere place to view classic films thanks to its collaboration with the Hanson Film Institute at the University of Arizona.
The summer screenings start the evening of June 2 with "The Thin Man," the first of five films that make up The Great Detectives in Film series. There's also a matinee on June 2. Tickets are $7, with discounts available.
Sci-fi rules in August, starting with "Star Trek: Wrath of Khan" Aug. 16 and 18.
-- Cinema La Placita starts its 13th season tonight with a showing of "The Killing," starring Sterling Hayden and directed by Stanley Kubrick.
Screenings start at 7:30 every Thursday night May through October in the La Placita Village, on the southwest corner of Broadway and Church Avenue in downtown Tucson (www.cinemalaplacita.com).
As always, $3 admission includes all the popcorn you can eat. Next Thursday, catch 1974's "The Great Gatsby," starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow.
If you go
-- What: "I Dream in Widescreen," a showcase of short films from students in the University of Arizona School of Theatre, Film and Television.
-- When: 7 p.m. Saturday. Doors open at 6.
-- Where: Fox Tucson Theatre, 17 W. Congress St.
-- Admission: Free. Organizers recommend arriving early.
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