Local filmmaker wins big at international film festival

Audience watches various short films at the Kent Stage Saturday evening.

Jarett Theberge

A first-time filmmaker won the top prize at an international short films festival in Kent on Saturday.

Hiram College sophomore Charlie Wirfel won the jury’s choice award at the 15th annual Standing Rock International Shorts Festival in their first entry to any film festival.

Wirfel’s film, “Say That Again?,” was made as a side project and beat out the competition from Belgium, Canada, Germany and others.

The short centered around two characters falling in love, except one of them can’t quite catch the other’s name, and this becomes a problem as their relationship continues.

Wirfel said before the show the film was a “ridiculous nonsensical comedy” and seemed to move the jury panel enough to be awarded the prize.

“I’m really impressed that I can be amongst so many wonderful artists and see all their work,” Wirfel said. “I’ve been making films for my personal use since I was 9 years old. I really like making film as a side project.”

The shorts festival rarely sees local artists taking home prizes, but as Jeff Ingram, the producer of the festival, said, there was more narrative and meaning from the films this year. Ingram said he thinks people wanted to see that.

“A lot of the time you get that in short film festivals,” Ingram said. “It’s abstract, it’s art, it’s whatever it means to you. These films took control of the storyline, and you knew what they were about.”

Dan Nelsen, a filmmaker in Akron, also won a people’s choice award at the fest for his film “To Your Liking.”

In addition to the strong showing by area artists, the community also celebrated the 15th anniversary of international short films in Kent.

Tom Simpson, a representative from the Kent Stage and a partner with Standing Rock for the event, has been involved with the festival since its early years and has seen it grow in international participation and community relevance.

“There are more and more people making films and short videos these days,” Simpson said. “Just being creative and not doing it for money ­­— it elevates the whole scene here.”

As the event continues to be a yearly gathering of visual artists and members of the community that continues to grow, the attendees remain the biggest supporters.

Nadine Gomez attended the festival on Saturday to make it her fourth consecutive year at the festival because of the fun atmosphere it holds and the attention to art in the neighborhood that it gives.

“Every movie is short, so if you don’t like one, there’s a new one coming up, and in the end you get a say,” Gomez said. “Let’s support (the local artists); if we don’t support them, who will? We have to be the first ones to do it.”

Jarett Theberge is a visual arts report. Contact him at [email protected].