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Susan Abbey, faculty advisor for HIFF. Holding HIFF merchandise in the HIFF office in front of posters from previous HIFF festivals. | Photo by Ross Milne

Passion keeps International Film Festival alive

HSU International Film Festival struggles to stay alive

HSU International Film Festival struggles amidst cutbacks

It’s never been easy for the Humboldt State University International Film Festival. The festival has struggled to stay afloat, dealing with cutbacks and lack of notoriety.

The process for building the festival was slow. It took a few years for the word of its existence to get out. However, thanks to a committed team behind the festival, it remains the oldest student-run film festival in the world at 51 years old.

Susan Abbey has been involved with the festival teaching film appreciation classes since Grad School. One of the film faculty members at HSU knew Abbey.

“They needed somebody who could help work with a classroom, event planning and promotion and also knew enough about film to help create the annual event,” Abbey said.

Abbey says that since the club also acts as a class, she encourages non-majors to take it for two credits.

“Teachers come and go, budgets come and go, but the students, even in really thin years when our budget has been cut down to nothing, the student’s passion keep it going,” Abbey said.

One of the benefits of the festival is that it gives experimental films a venue.

“Experimental films once did not have a venue but because of the kind of avant-garde nature of HSU, it was able to hold the context for them,” Abbey said.

One of the problems that the festival constantly faces is with the school administration, from which they receive very little support.

“The class was going to be dropped a few years ago because it was dropped from being a core class and the teachers here didn’t have the time to teach it,” Abbey said. “The festival also had to be cut from seven days to four to make it more sustainable.”

Aurelio Torres-Garcia has been part of the club since he was a freshman in 2016, and helps Abbey as co-director.

“It is all encompassing,” Torres-Garcia said. “Everyone tells stories and everyone has a story to tell. Many of my co-directors are film fanatics and they love working in the film festival.”

Another co-director is film major Katherine Lundahl.

“I want to go into documentary,” Lundahl said. “I want to make social positive change and documentary is an amazing resource and it’s the responsibility of the filmmaker to use this tool to make positive change.”

Lundahl detailed some issues with the clubs had financially.

Peter Blickensderfer began working for the festival ever since he had done similar work organizing smaller film festivals at his high school.

He liked the way the community responded to the festivals. Blickensderfer has been part of the festival for two years and said he sees the way budget cuts have affected the festival.

“The school seems to have been pulling back funding from the festival, which is a shame because they are the major funder,” Blickensderfer said. “It’s always been a struggle since the beginning. It’s always been a passion project and the history of it is also a major reason to keep it going and the community likes it, always responding well to it.”

It turns out that there must be $4000 left in the trust before any club can ask for more money and that wouldn’t even last a year. There is also no guarantee that they would be approved for any extra funds once down to that low amount.

“We have $19,000 in our trust, that money is from fundraising, ticket sales and filmfreeway submissions,” Lundahl said. “The problem this year, because of cuts all clubs are being impacted, even bigger organizations on Campus.”

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