Filmmakers and aspiring filmmakers from around the world descended on Center County this fall for the fourth annual Center Film Festival.
From October 31 to November 6, a wide variety of films were shown at both the State Theater on West College Avenue and the Rowland Theater in Philipsburg. Filmmakers, producers and actors were present throughout the festival.
It also gave local high school and university students the opportunity to get involved in the festival at various levels and show their skills – be it filming, writing, photography or speaking in front of an audience.
“For me, this represents an opportunity to meet a range of filmmakers and also just immerse myself in watching independent films,” said Anabelle Preciado Higgins (Newbie Film Production). “It was also just cool to be able to spend time in those theaters…that particular theater [Rowland] is very nice.”
One aspect of the films shown during the festival is their social commentary and transparency on current issues. One such film was Klondike, a Ukrainian film set during the Russo-Ukrainian War in 2014.
Mykyta Kozlov, the film’s assistant director, spoke about how Klondike offers an opportunity to engage American audiences with the film’s themes: the war in Ukraine, and to show the perspective of families during that war.
“We need to find new ways to connect people to the problem in my country,” Kozlov said. “Movies can be the most powerful vehicle for that.”
Klondike was among the many films honored at Sunday’s awards ceremony, which also included other short films and documentaries.
The ceremony at the Staatstheater closed the festival with speeches by various guests of honor, live music and spoken-word poetry by the Writers Organized to Represent Diverse Stories (WORDS).
One of those awards was the Chandler Living Legacy Award for the documentary Of Medicine And Miracle. Based on the story of Emily Whitehead, a leukemia survivor, the film sees the support of her parents and a doctor in an experimental cancer treatment.
Emily’s parents, Kari and Tom, were present. They are co-founders of the Emily Whitehead Foundation and residents of Philipsburg.
“To receive an award like this is great because our family has been working on this film for over eight years, so it’s just a blessing,” said Tom. “Our family will never forget that.”
They took the stage with Emily to accept the award.
The award’s name commemorates Curt Chandler, a professor at Penn State University’s Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications, who died of pancreatic cancer in January. He has also been involved with the film festival since its inception in 2019.
Pearl Gluck, a filmmaker and professor of screenwriting and directing at Penn State University, is co-founder and artistic director of the Center Film Festival. She helped organize the event and stressed the need for collaboration.
“This year we are honored to have a series of films from around the world that I believe will allow us to call ourselves the ‘International Center Film Festival,'” Gluck said in an address to the Audience. “This festival could not happen without our partners…we are so grateful to each of you.”
Stan Lathan, a film and television director, producer and Penn State University graduate, was invited to the ceremony to accept a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Lathan graduated from Penn State with a Bachelor of Arts in Theater in 1967 and spoke about the impact Penn State had on his life, how it prepared him for his career, and offered some advice to the students in the audience during his acceptance speech .
Jason Browne, a Penn State University graduate and public speaker, was one of the award presenters during the ceremony.
“For the Center Film Festival and Gluck to be able to honor [Lathan] in such an honest way, and I was able to help with that…it’s a blessing,” Browne said. “I’m honored to be involved, to have shared the stage with [Lathan]and with all the filmmakers making such an impact.”
Having students participate and collaborate in these types of events also helps build stronger student-alumni bonds, Browne said.
“It’s not just about a performance, it’s not just about the flashing lights… [Lathan] accepted an award to return to a city he’s had mixed experiences with and share the stage with some of us and give back to the communities that originally raised him,” Browne said. “It’s the responsibility of student groups to pack places like this when we have an opportunity like this in the city.”
MORE LIFESTYLE COVERAGE
While some Penn State students are looking for relaxation at this point in the semester,…