ATL Film Fest moves to GSU

In many ways, Georgia State has long been a vital supporter for the Atlanta Film Festival, one of the oldest and longest-running film festivals in the country. Now, the 36-year-old organization has moved its headquarters onto campus. The festival kicked off Friday, March 23 and runs through April 1.

Fitting that when the Atlanta Film Festival moved to GSU it would be led by one of the university’s own. Chris Escobar (B.A. ’08) is studying in GSU’s graduate film program and is the festival’s executive director.

“It’s a natural fit,” Escobar said of the new, expanded partnership. “[The Atlanta Film Festival] has been screening at the Rialto and Cinefest for decades, and GSU is involved in a number of levels: faculty members are on the jury, and our students are interning and volunteering.”

Escobar says that this year’s 10-day festival offers more than 220 independent, international, animated, documentary and short films  selected from more than 1,800 submissions from all over the world. The films are screened at the Plaza Theatre and the Landmark Cinema in Midtown, and several other locations in Atlanta, such as GSU’s Rialto Center for the Arts, are hosting associated events.

For communications professor and Digital Arts and Entertainment Lab (DAEL) Director Kay Beck, an original founder of the Atlanta Film Festival, bringing the organization to GSU represents a full circle.

“I have observed and been involved in the ups and downs over the years, and, at present, the Atlanta Film Festival is positioned to become a first-tier festival,” she said. “New personnel, new location, increased interest in the theater going experience will result in more attendance, screenings and positive press.”

David Cheshier, associate professor of communication and department chair, said that, besides housing the Atlanta Film Festival (AFF) at GSU, partnering with the organization creates myriad opportunities for the GSU film program and expands GSU’s profile in the region’s arts scene.

“We are actively exploring ways to do more, such as student signature experiences, GSU/AFF hosted screenings and director talks, and mentorship and career counseling experiences that we think will better prepare our film and media industries students for careers in film,” he said.

Escobar said that the AFF recently added “365” to its title – Atlanta Film Festival 365 – to indicate that it’s not just a 10-day film festival, but a year-round organization offering slate of diverse offerings, such as screenings, events, discussions, workshops, panels and educational activities for established filmmakers and industry professionals as well as for students.

Kristy Breneman, also in the graduate film program, is the outreach coordinator with the festival.

“I’ve been working with WonderRoot Community Art Center for the past few years, so it’s a natural fit for me,” she said.  “I like connecting the Atlanta Film Festival with a community that I am very familiar with. It’s exciting seeing all the ways we can work with organizations that I have seen make such an impact in Atlanta.”

Breneman said that the film she’s most excited to see is “VHS,” a found-footage horror anthology.

“I think GSU students would also be interested in seeing ‘AKA Blondie,’ ‘Hurry Up and Wait,’ and any of the shorts segments,” she said.

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