Today kicks off the Guam International Film Festival (GIFF), and what better way to spend the rainy season than watching a ton of awesome movies! I always get excited anytime there is something special happening in Guam. It’s not often that we get an enriching, artful event to experience. Whether it be an art exhibit or village festival, I always make time to stop by, support and enjoy! There are so many good movies from all over the world to choose from. This year I bought my tickets early and online because last year the movie I wanted to watch was sold out.
I was excited when my friend and fellow blogger, Joey Charles, agreed to answer my questions about GIFF! Joey is from Maine and came out to Guam in 2011 to teach at Pacific Islands University and taught ESL there for two years. You can read all about his travels on his blog, Tales of a Wandering Heart.
Let the questions begin…
What is your role this year with GIFF?
I will be hosting a week long Open Mic event that will be showcasing local musical talent, the same way that the Film Fest will be showcasing local film talent. I will also be working on the festival floor introducing films and answering questions for festival goers. So be on the lookout for the “Le Professeur” badge if you have any questions.
What was your involvement with the festival last year and how was the turn out?
Last year I worked the festival as a volunteer, introducing films and basically doing whatever was asked of me. It was such a fun and life changing time for me. There were so many things that I learned about how the festival was run that inspired me to come back and work this year. I actually do not live on Guam anymore, but I believe so strongly in what the film festival is trying to achieve that I had to come back to Guam to be apart of this great event.
The turnout was exceptional. We had one narrative feature film that represented Guam at the festival and won two awards, the best film made in the Marianas and Audience Choice. We had filmmakers from the USA, Hawaii, Japan, and the Phillipines attending the festival and helping educate our local filmmakers through Q&A sessions before and after their films. This event is becoming a time for artists to come together and be inspired and begin to understand what could be in the filmmaking industry here on Guam. It also gives these filmmakers a unique opportunity to see what is out there and aim higher. People really seem to understand that and it was reflected in last year’s turn out.
I heard that there were over 300 film submissions, how are the films chosen for the festival? How does the festival represent Guam?
Well people send in their films and then our program director, Kel Muna, wades through all the films and pulls out the ones that meet a certain criteria. I don’t know exactly what that criteria is, but I am sure when you see the line up this year you will see that the stories are relevant to Guam in some way. Whether it is a cultural theme, human rights, or how people express themselves through the arts, these films are hand picked because of their relevancy to issues here on Guam.
Which films are you most excited about?
The films that I am most excited about are Crocodile on Yangtze, Flex is King, the local showcase, and the Raymond Red showcase. Raymond Red is a Cannes Film Festival Palme D’or winner and will be showing his most recent feature film as well as a showcase of his shortfilms, including the one that won him the Palme D’Or award in France.
This year GIFF has a downloadable App, what are the benefits of using it?
You are correct the festival pulled out all the stops this year and created an App that provides the list of films, what they are about, and when they will be screened. This App was created in light of the festivals effort to be a green event. We are trying hard this year to go completely paperless and the App gave us a huge boost in reaching that goal.
Along with moving towards our goal of being a green event, we also offer discounted ticket prices if you buy them through the app or online at guamfilmfestival.org. With the App you can also create your own personal fest schedule, as well as get a brief history of the Guam International Film Festival and its creators.
What goes on behind the scenes?
There are so many things that go on behind the scenes that it would be hard to talk about it in only a few sentences, but I’ll tell you a little bit about the staff and what they’ve been doing since the end of last years festival.
At the top of the list are the Muna Brothers, Kel and Don, who brought the festival to life back in 2011. They are the driving force and the heart and soul behind the festival, doing everything from choosing the films, to finding the money to help keep the festival going each year, to putting together a team of people who have the same drive and vision to make the festival run.
Jason “JD” Iriarte is a local business owner, with a background in film production, that also has a huge role to play in getting the festival jump started every year.
Ruzelle Almonds has been running the Media Campaign this year, which includes TV, Radio and Social Media platforms. She is working hard to make sure the word gets out about the festival here on Guam as well as all over the world.
Myracle Mugol has been overseeing hospitality, which includes taking care of delegates that have had some part in a film that is screening at the festival. This year we have filmmakers coming from the US mainland, Hawaii, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, the Marshall Islands, and of course from Guam.
Brandon Santos has been the event coordinator for the last two years. He makes sure everything is taken care of during the actual festival. He also helps in the buildup to the festival.
For more info check out the Staff Bio page at Guamfilmfest.org
The location for this year’s GIFF changed from last year, will it be in a theater?
This year the festival will be held at the Tango Theaters in the Agana Shopping Center. This gives us more space to work with this year. We will be hosting an Open Mic in the center court for all of Guam to be able to participate in and share their talent. Agana Shopping Center has been so supportive this year and we’ve been able to partner with a lot of local businesses. People who buy tickets will be able to get discounts at some of the restaurants that are sponsors for the event, like Tony Roma’s and Capriciossa. We are very excited to be able to work with Tango Theaters once again and appreciate their support for the festival since the beginning.
How is GIFF funded and how important is the support from the community?
GIFF is a NON-PROFIT organization. Support from the community is essential in keeping this unique opportunity alive.
For a first time festival goer, what would you tell someone to prepare for?
For the first time festival goer I would say be ready for an eclectic collection of films from all over the world. Be ready to have an open mind and be ready to learn from the different cultures and stories that each film brings to the table. Also if you want the most out of the festival, including discounts on tickets, then download the app and buy your tickets through there or buy your tickets online. Also do your research on the films in advance on the website and check out the films on the website.