Tale of Middle East wins Elgin Short Film Festival
A Saudi Arabian filmmaker earned first place at the 11th annual Elgin Short Film Festival, with an Elgin resident claiming the people's choice award.
The festival Saturday at the Hemmens Cultural Center in downtown Elgin attracted about 600 people who watched screenings of the six finalists among 41 entries. The first place trophy and $1,000 went to the animated short film "Starting Point" by director Kamel Altamimi, who graduated last year with a master's degree in animation from DePaul University in Chicago and now lives in Orlando, Florida.
His film is about a young woman who spends her day with her mother colorfully painting their village and who begins a desperate chase to bring her mother back when the older woman is taken by a dark beast.
Altamimi, 32, a native of Saudi Arabia, said the story represents the struggles faced by young people in the Middle East, with the beast signifying tragedy brought by war, civil war or revolution. "The (daughter) character is trying to get back to what she was striving to be like," he said. "Basically, it's about, 'How do you bravely keep going and keep contributing positively to the world even though you might have to end up living a life that is worse than the one you were brought up in?'"
This was Altamimi's first serious attempt at entering a film festival. He found out about Elgin's festival from one of his professors at DePaul, he said.
He finished the film in July after a gestation process of about two years, and he's now working on short cartoons for YouTube, he said.
"It was really a struggle delivering a seven-minute fairy tale, sociopolitical analysis story that tries to tell something important to young people -- all without dialogue. It took me for a ride."
Festival chairman Joe Vassallo said there were "stellar" animation film entries this year. "'Starting Point' was visually beautiful and the story was great," Vassallo said. "We keep getting a higher quality of film every year."
The festival is sponsored by Elgin's cultural arts commission, which contributes about $6,000, he said. In past years, Grand Victoria Casino sponsored the $1,000 first place check, but not this year, he said.
"Waiting by the Phone" by director Olivia Jensen won $500 and the second place trophy, sponsored by state Sen. Cristina Castro. The third place trophy, sponsored by state Rep. Anna Moeller, and $300 went to director Mark Hosack for "Miracle Desert."
The people's choice award went to director Trevor Morgan of Elgin for "Ten Hours," which tells of two strangers, a ride-share driver and his teenage passenger, who form an unlikely friendship during a 10-hour trip. "I'm proud to be a part of a community that cares so much about bringing culture and arts to its community," Morgan said.
His next project will be a "true love story" -- think about fights about hair in the bathtub -- that will be filmed in and around downtown Elgin, possibly starting in late November, Morgan said.