On Nov. 18 and 19, Muhlenberg’s media and communication department, along with the newly reformed Muhlenberg Film Association (MFA), put on their first film festival in over a decade. This was done in collaboration with the Allentown Civic Theatre, and the 12 films selected were shown over the course of two days.
Beyond some invited submissions, all the films were produced entirely by current or recently graduated students. Many of them were made by media and communication students during their time in Dublin, Ireland while studying abroad.
“I’m not a film major… but walking in to sit together and see this art was so so special to me. I was just really moved by what just happened in there, and I would love to see this happen again.”-Sabrina Vitale ’23
“Selecting the films for the festival was a long and hard process. There were so many submissions and I wish we could’ve screened them all, but we had to make informed decisions about what we wanted our festival to say and what kind of impact we wanted to have,” remarked Amira Jackson, ‘24, one of the student coordinators of the event.
“I personally really enjoyed getting to see all the student films that I had never gotten a chance to see before this, it also allowed me to judge them unbiasedly… I also really enjoyed doing the publicity for the film festival and creating the programs was so much fun for me,” said Kayla Rivera ‘23, another coordinator.
“The planning that went into this event turned out to be quite a lot of work. We would meet at least once a week to discuss general things and make sure we could achieve what we wanted to… Without that teamwork, this would have been so much harder… Later on, it became more about getting things done in a crunch which we were able to do. Getting the films, programs and awards ready in time was a lot of work but was a great time in the end. We all kept each other in check and made sure things were getting done, which they always were,” said the third coordinator, Joe Romano, ‘23.
The festival was a competition, and the film that walked away with the most awards, including best fiction film, was“Bombshell” which was based on the complex relationship between a pair of sisters.
“The idea for the script was based off of a loose, dramatized version of my real-life relationship with my sister. I really wanted to write something about the complex relationships siblings have with each other; I think it’s such an interesting dynamic that so many people can relate to. From there me, Mallory [Goldsmith ‘22] and Arielle [Weinberger ‘22] all worked together to work out the kinks in the script in order to get our final version.” explained alum Maggie Mustion ‘22, director, writer and co-producer along with Goldsmith and Weinberger.
Ruhani Singh ‘23 and Sarah Bui ‘23, who took home the best documentary award for their film “Mair” said, “After spending a lot of time in Dublin and other cities in Ireland, we were strongly impressed by the reading culture. Irish people read everywhere: on the bus, in the park and even in the pub. People really enjoy reading. There are so many independent bookshops that have been present for a few decades in Ireland. So we started wondering what makes these bookshops alive and how these bookshops nurture people’s love for reading and literature. We were not trying to make a documentary but wanted to focus more on sharing the stories and memories of people’s relationships with these bookshops as these bookshops are slowly disappearing. The idea was trying to resemble the process of reading a book which opens a whole world for one’s imagination. The drawings, collages, different images [and] imaginative characters are brought together to help build up that world.”
Of course, the packed audience’s reactions to the films were one of the most exciting things about the festival, a sentiment shared by the teams of all 12 films during the festival talkback and award acceptance speeches as well as later statements. When the showings concluded, chatter about the projects was heard from the various groups walking back to Muhlenberg.
“I thought all the films were amazing in their own way. They all evoked different emotions as well. There were some that were like ‘haha funny’ and others that were deep reflections on the self. They were all wonderful… that was my first time viewing any film work in a theater since before COVID!” said Ryan Steremberg, ‘25.
“I’m not a film major… but walking in to sit together and see this art was so so special to me. I was just really moved by what just happened in there, and I would love to see this happen again,” mused Sabrina Vitale, ‘23, as she walked out of the theater.
The First Peak FIlm Festival was a massive success, showcasing some truly incredible student film work to a full Civic Theatre audience.