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By ALAINA BARTEL
Daily News Staff Writer
A drone video showing what Keith Wadley has been doing in his retirement, a video taking its viewers inside and around the Baranof Hot Springs and a cautionary animated film showing what could happen if a child swallowed a watermelon seed. Those were three of the many films shown at the first-ever Ketchikan Film Festival on Aug. 24 at the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center.
Sponsored by KPUtv, the festival saw more than 1,700 submissions in a variety of categories. Sixteen videos were screened at the event, and others made their way into the spotlight on KPU this past week.
Three judges, including Cameo McRoberts, Steven Villano and Jacob Schwartz, whittled down the pool of entries to be shown at the event, and ultimately chose three winners at the end based on originality, creativity, direction, cinematography, production value, pacing, structure and audio/music. Honorable mention certificates were also given.
Almost every seat in the theater at the Discovery Center was full, as a diverse group of guests filtered through its doors and laid eyes upon the big screen and readied themselves for about an hour and 40 minutes of videos created by local and statewide talent, and beyond.
Winning first place, and $300, was Jeanette Sweetman of Ketchikan for her film “Harlowe.” It is a project from Shelley Virginia and Sweetman, and was adapted from the full length play, “Harlowe,” by Jennifer Lane.
“Jeanette Sweetman's piece that won, I thought was a beautiful, beautiful job of … short filmmaking,” Villano said. “I think any festival that I would have judged, I think that one would be a standout — and the fact that it was in our festival, from a local artist, is just fascinating and wonderful.”
Sweetman said she made the video last year with Virginia, who is an aerial artist and was in the full length play in New York. According to Sweetman, Virginia was looking to adapt the play somehow and brought the idea to Sweetman. The two then received permission from the playwright to adapt the script and make it into a film.
In the video, a woman lies in a bathtub and holds her breath underwater to hear her heartbeat. She also uses a variety of movements, including aerial, to tell a story.
“I can't feel it, so I listen for it,” a voice says in the video says as Harlowe coughs and surfaces from the water.
In an interview with the Daily News, Sweetman said the video can reach the dark part that exists in everyone. Through talking with people, she has heard the video resonate in a number of ways.
“'Harlowe' is — if we're speaking from a video, film, cinema standpoint — 'Harlowe' is really raw,” the filmmaker said. “It's darker because it's very real, and it's very personal, and I think it brings out this personal truth to whoever is watching it because it has this heavy feeling that is very emotional and runs very deep.”
Ultimately, the film is about healing and choosing to lift oneself up out of a situation and take on their own healing to step out of whatever darkness they're in, according to Sweetman.
The film took about nine months to create, and Sweetman said she worked on it while in a videography class at the University of Alaska Anchorage. It was filmed mostly in the black box theater at the university with different lighting and water — including a swimming pool and a bathtub.
Sweetman said her work in video stemmed from her portrait work and experimental photography in Ketchikan, which she has been doing since high school. Since then, she has dabbled in different video techniques and received a bachelor of fine arts in photography.
“I was just pleased as punch that that event was going on at all,” she said. “I'm so happy that there were people that put that together. I think that's very exciting because Ketchikan hasn't had anything like that before, but we do have all these people that love to make movies and put these kinds of things together.”
Villano said the three judges stand behind their choice of winners. Second place went to “Shadow and the Four Spirits” submitted by Jason Baldwin, who won a $200 B&H Photo gift card; and third place went to “The Voices of Our Ancestors” submitted by Joseph Yates, who won a $100 Amazon gift card.
Two honorable mention certificates were given to Hamilton Cleverdon, who submitted, “Mind in Alaska,” and Radek Radzilowski, who submitted “Ketchikan Alaska in 4K.”
Villano said it was a bit tricky to judge the films, as they were comparing drone videos, to films, to documentaries and more. He said they are all separate genres, and if it was a documentary film festival, Villano said, “The Voices of Our Ancestors” might have won. Villano said it was beautiful, powerful and potent. In the video, Yates took a deeper look into the revitalization of indigenous languages.
Kim Simpson, division manager of marketing and sales at KPU, said she was worried that the event wouldn't be well-attended, but there was a line of people at the door before the event began.
“We were really excited about the amount of support the community showed for all the artists,” she said, noting later that the viewers were a diverse bunch.
Simpson said she believes there was enough of a response to have a film festival next year. KPU tried to accept every video that was submitted locally as long as it fit in the submission guidelines.
When asked if there will be changes to submission guidelines in years to come, Simpson said, “people do what they do.”
“Art is in the eye of the beholder,” Simpson said. “We like to get a good mix.”
Other videos screened at the event include submissions by Krystal Sentz, Kefei Li, Robert Melanson, Steve Speights, Louise Leblond, Andrew Leivian, Keith Wadley, Ryan Deininger, Jacob King, Molly Murdock and Vanessa Sweet.