The Socially Relevant Film Festival, NYC

Covering the Socially Relevant Film Festival was quite the experience. First and foremost, the Socially Relevant Film Festival New York is a festival focused on showcasing & honoring films that collectively cover a wide swath of social issues affecting our societies today; sexism, human trafficking/slavery, discrimination of various kinds, and many many more. The ultimate aim of the SR fest is to raise awareness through the powerful medium of film, such that we can all collectively work towards a world free of hatred, violence, and crime. So while captain of A Rebel Minded Society and S.T.A.R.C.H Executive Producer, Joel 'Grizzly' Bocourt, spent his week in Texas covering the SXSW Festival, I was charged with covering a few portions of the SR Festival here in NYC, beginning on Wednesday late morning at the Screen Actor's Guild building in Manhattan. The day started off quite well, given that almost as soon as I got there I met one of the Festival representatives, Lucie Tripon, whom I IMMEDIATELY got along with because (a) she's super duper awesome & sweet, haha (b) she's from France and I speak French myself, so we were able to have full blown conversations in French, practice which'll come in handy when the team and I return to Paris this June, and (c) she was very helpful in showing me around and keeping some SAG personnel off my back, haha (filming isn't normally allowed in the building). The only event I was there to film that day was a very informative SAG workshop; providing the filmmakers present with a ton of information about costs, prices, policies, as well as the benefits of joining the Guild for filmmakers of various genres. Met a bunch of filmmakers themselves (many of whom were competing in the festival), had a few laughs, took some slightly awkward but funny group photos (haha), and that marked the end of my first day of coverage. Next was Friday evening, with multiple screenings being held at Bow Tie Cinemas in Chelsea, and that's where the real action began. I was introduced to another Festival official, Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi, also very awesome and very helpful, who introduced me to various filmmakers and sponsors alike. The amount of social consciousness expressed collectively through the films was off the charts, with some awe-inspiring & profoundly human films being played such as; My Beautiful White Skin ( a film in which Parita, a talented British­-Indian girl, desperately tries to lighten her skin in time for a Bollywood Audition), The Neighborhood That Disappeared (a film highlighting one of the most massive urban renewal projects in American history which sterilized the cultural and ethnic heart of Albany, New York), The Sex Temple (set in a small town in Sweden, the manager of an old and well known theater is about to put up a LGBTQ Burlesque show, when he rents out a cellar to a swingers’ club that has just lost their previous place in a fire) and many many more. I had the honor of interviewing the filmmakers of Plus! A film exploring the nuances and discrimination of the fashion industry, where the majority are the minority. With 'plus-­size' being virtually invisible in mainstream fashion despite the fact that 65 percent of American women are size 14 or larger, Plus! tells the story of five women actively trying to change that. I also interviewed the makers of I am NOT from Barcelona, where Alex, a young Belgian, runs away to Barcelona seeking a Spanish girl he'd just met at a party, Olivia. When he arrives however, the situation is tense between the locals and the other Europeans who are considered illegal immigrants, Alex included. To stay with Olivia, he must undergo an evolution of consciousness, and learn what it truly means to be an activist. My personal favorite interview came in the form of Brian Pope. Not a filmmaker per say, but the Founder & Executive Director of The Arck Project, one of the many companies sponsoring the SR Festival. A daunting yet fascinating project involving the use of photogrammetry and virtual reality technologies, it was an intellectual delight to speak with someone so passionate about preserving the memory & legacy of the human species, and reminded me greatly of issues I touched on in S.T.A.R.C.H Episode Zero-One, SYNERGY. Last but certainly not the least was my interview with Madame Nora Armani herself; the Founding Artistic Director & Curator of the SR Film Festival, an award-winning and accomplished filmmaker in her own right, and an absolute beautiful soul if there ever was one :) Lastly came my coverage of the Award Ceremony at the Tenri Cultural Insitute on Sunday evening, March 20th. Nora delivered a heart-felt & personal speech on her motivations for founding the SR Film festival, followed by the announcement & distribution of Awards to the winners; you can see the full list of winners here. After a few speeches of their own from the winners as well as from some important people involved in the Festival, it was time for the mingling and the cocktails, haha. I gave (and received) more business cards and shook more hands than I can remember, haha. Definitively a great night, the culmination of a week-long endeavor dedicated to social good, what's cooler than that? To Nora, Lucie & Chaira; thank you for having me, it was an honor. Be on the lookout next year for a S.T.A.R.C.H entry into the SR competition. If we're talking about 'social consciousness' here, well, that's right up our lane! Haha. Peace & Love, and until the next time!!!

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