New Poetry-Film Festival Underway



I had never registered that there are film festivals dedicated to poetry and filmmaking until a friend told me recently about a new one, called the International Poetry Film Festival.

International Poetry Film Festival judges are currently considering 41 short films, from several countries, in categories such as Narrative, Animated, Documentary, and Experimental. The common thread is that all entries must be “poem based” and under 30 minutes. The Festival is open for submissions until February 28, 2022, but there is a “late deadline” three weeks after that. Entries can be submitted here at Film Freeway.

Founding Director Lynn Moss Holley stresses to me on on the phone that poetry is the spine of these films. “The poem can exist without the film,” she says, “but the film can’t exist without the spine of the poem.”

But films for the Festival do not have to include entire poems or use poems as scripts; they can also be documentaries about poets or poetic forms, or they can experiment with images and soundtracks inspired by poetry. Examples on the Festival site include an “homage to haiku”; an ekphrastic video about sculptures in Liverpool; and Auden’s “Night Mail” used in a documentary short of the same name.

Films chosen for the Festival will be co-curated by, and screened at, Beyond Baroque, a public space for the literary arts in Venice, California, which has deep ties to the Los Angeles poetry community and to independent artists across the country. In-person events will also include a day of panel discussions. Prizes include Best Film (possibly in different categories), Finalists, and Honorable Mentions, as well as an Audience Favorite Award and a Festival Director’s Choice Award.

“In case judges don’t pick the one I like best,” Holley says, laughing.

After the Festival ends, selections will be made available online for a nominal fee, she says.

Holley has been an active curator and art consultant for more than 15 years and has served as executive director of a large arts center in Florida and resident curator of two major art and science centers in California. Her graduate degree is in Museum Studies from the University of Leicester. She has also worked as a writer, journalist, and promotional filmmaker.

The 3 Minute Film Festival that she founded is in its 10th season, and her International Fine Arts Film Festival is in its fifth. She tells me they were getting enough poem-based entries that she thought those filmmakers should have their own festival.

Holley generally would like to see more Americans engage with poetry on a regular basis, and she feels that partnering with Beyond Baroque, whose model is what she calls “an exploration of the possibilities of language,” will help with that. The organization holds 150 literary readings, musical performances, and other events each year. Tom Waits, Wanda Coleman, Amy Gerstler, and Amanda Gorman have attended poetry workshops; Dana Gioia, Patti Smith, and Michael McClure have read or performed.

“Amanda Gorman got her legs at Beyond Baroque,” Holley says, “and you realize how empowering poetry is.”

In judging the Festival, Holley and her colleagues will “look at the whole elephant of film and poem.

“It is a very difficult balance this first year,” she admits. But, for her, “Poetry…cuts to the core of the emotion of a story, and the spine of the film must be the poetry, whatever else it’s about.”

John Griswold

John Griswold is a staff writer at The Common Reader. His most recent book is a collection of essays, The Age of Clear Profit: Essays on Home and the Narrow Road (UGA Press 2022). His previous collection was Pirates You Don’t Know, and Other Adventures in the Examined Life. He has also published a novel, A Democracy of Ghosts, and a narrative nonfiction book, Herrin: The Brief History of an Infamous American City. He was the founding Series Editor of Crux, a literary nonfiction book series at University of Georgia Press. His work has been included and listed as notable in Best American anthologies.