CUNY Film Festival Brings In Raw Talent

Almost going completely unnoticed to many, within CUNY lies a festival that births the type of talent from which greats are emerged and the art of film-making is tackled through the minds of the young. March 27th dates the third annual CUNY Film Festival (CUFF), a project founded by Daniel Cowen his freshman year at Hunter College. The festival hosts a variety of talent within our school system, ones that might have been overlooked had it not been for the festival giving opportunities to young independent filmmakers.

One student, Chi Nguyen, sophomore at Baruch College, is an organizer of the festival. She is a firm supporter of CUFF. “I truly love CUFF for its free spirit and its openness to new student and faculty films,” she says. “I do believe that CUFF does showcase a great group of talented students. It is very difficult for us to pick out the best movies and it’s even more difficult to eliminate some since they all have either great concepts or great productions.” One student in particular, Kalim Armstrong of Vacationland Productions, is an example of the type of raw talent events like the CUFF discover.

Tent City in Lakewood, NJ

Armstrong, a 32-year-old graduate student in the Integrated Media Arts at Hunter College, is an independent filmmaker that seems to have one goal in mind: social change. His current project, “In the Woods: Life in Tent City,” is his first feature documentary film as a director. It looks into the world of homelessness and affordable housing through “tent cities,” communities set up illegally by the homeless. He researched tent cities nationwide before settling on one in Lakewood, NJ, where he has been documenting for the past year and researching in general for the past two years. Using the documentary for his graduate school thesis, the project is not just a school assignment for him. “I believe through storytelling and through understanding someone else’s life and their experiences, it affects the viewer and makes the world a more understanding place,” he says. He believes in looking at people who are normally overlooked, a quality and concern not many (but more should) possess. “You know with homelessness, all it takes is a couple things to go wrong in your life,” Armstrong says. “Anyone of us can wind up not having a place to call home or knowing what to do next.” His concern for others is nothing less than inspiring.

Although he will not be entering “In the Woods” in the CUFF, he is still involved with the festival. Last year, he entered the short documentary “World’s Fair” about a man confined to living on his boat in search for a freer New York City. This year, he’ll be entering “A Field Guide Into New England Life,” about a man living by himself in a cabin in Vermont. His goals of social awareness are obvious in the context of his films. His need to spread the awareness on the people who are in need the most is reminiscent of famed independent filmmaker Michael Moore.

Although his talent in film is strong, Armstrong was not always a filmmaker. He graduated from San Francisco Art Institute with a B.A. in documentary photography. However, once he realized the could gain a greater audience in film, and video was becoming less and less expensive, he became interested in moving pictures as a way to move an audience. Since his movement into film, he has created six films on his own and has worked on at least 50 projects with other sources, including television and even corporate videos.

Kalim Armstrong

As far as the chances of ever going “Hollywood,” Armstrong doubts that will happen. He believes the difference between Independent and Hollywood is very fine. “It all comes down to money,” he says. With that in mind, an independent filmmaker’s passion will take precedent over the amount of money he makes, which is a goal many Hollywood filmmakers seem to seek. And Armstrong’s passion is undeniable.

“If you believe in something, you just have to do it,” Armstrong says firmly. He is the true essence of a young, motivated filmmaker. With CUFF showcasing talent like his, it won’t be long before CUNY makes a name for itself in the independent film genre.

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2 Responses to CUNY Film Festival Brings In Raw Talent

  1. Oh snap, we tore apart your lede!

  2. alofters says:

    This was really great. I had no idea we even had a CUNY film festival!

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