The Free Press, Mankato, MN

March 19, 2013

Bethany to host two-day film fest

By Amanda Dyslin
The Free Press

MANKATO — Kurt Paulsen lives by a "seize the day" kind of mentality, he said.

So, yes, it would have been better to have a year to plan a new international film festival to be held in May. And yes, there's a possibility the rushed timeline of just several months will mean fewer submissions this first year.

But no, he doesn't regret "spiraling" with the brief evolution of the Speechless Film Festival, the first of its kind to be held in Mankato.

"I'm always fearful of things dying in committees," said Paulsen, assistant professor of media arts at Bethany Lutheran College.

During two days in May, the now closed movie theater in Mankato Place will reopen to host the film festival.

 Paulsen said as many films as time allows will be shown both days on all four screens, and a panel of judges will determine winners in each category for high school and adult divisions.

Submissions from around the world already have come in for each category: long form (more than 15 minutes); short form (fewer than 15 minutes); and animation/experimental/other.

Paulsen said the content, for the most part, is completely up to the filmmaker. And despite the name "Speechless Film Festival," the films don't have to be silent.

When Paulsen was first dreaming up the concept, he wanted to host a film festival that filled a niche in the heavily populated festival circuit. No one seemed to be doing films without dialogue, which place heavy emphasis on visual presentation. Plus, such a festival would mean no language barriers, he said.

But due to the speed with which this festival has come together, in just a couple of months, Paulsen decided he didn't want any reason to discourage people from submitting films this first year. So films with dialogue are being accepted. But the judging emphasis still will be placed on visuals, production value and sophistication, he said.

The content area that is being policed is that of the "Bethany standard," Paulsen said. The films cannot be "obscene or offensive," including gratuitous sex and nudity. If they are deemed offensive, Paulsen said the films will not be shown at the festival and will not be judged for prizes.

"It can be about absolutely anything," Paulsen said. "(But) if we deem it inappropriate, we won't show it."

Art professor Bill Bukowski, who is in charge of pre-screening, said in an email: "Bethany Lutheran College reserves the right to reject any film or video that contains a message of hatred toward any people or ideology or contains extreme or gratuitous violence, nudity or eroticism."

Student winners in each category will receive $500, and adult winners will receive $1,000. There also will be a separate overall high school category with an award of $250 in cash and a $2,000 filmmaker scholarship to Bethany.

Thanks to a donation from Drive a Tank company in Kasota, Bethany has had the capital to setup an online submissions system and market the festival on the website, which Paulsen describes as the "supermarket" of sites where most filmmakers go.

As a result, a week ago Bethany had received 46 submissions from about 15 countries, including China, Ireland, Iceland New Zealand and Iran, among others.

So far, not many high school students have submitted films, and he's hoping to see more.

"That's something that we're really anxious for," he said. "We want the high school category to be successful."

The deadline for adult submissions is April 1, and it's April 15 for high school submissions.

Judges include Bethany English professor Lars Johnson; Minnesota State University English professor Don Larsson; Georgia State University graphic design professor Jeff Boortz; and KMSU Radio co-hosts Tim Lind and Shelley Pierce.