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East Lansing Film Festival's opening night features documentaries, shorts ahead of week-long activities

November 11, 2023
A theatre at Studio C in Meridian Mall showcases the film "Mom & Dad's Nipple Factory" for the East Lansing Film Festival on Nov. 10, 2023.
A theatre at Studio C in Meridian Mall showcases the film "Mom & Dad's Nipple Factory" for the East Lansing Film Festival on Nov. 10, 2023. —
Photo by Brianna Schmidt | The State News

The East Lansing Film Festival, or ELFF, has officially started and is taking place in Meridian Mall's Studio C! Celebration Theater until Nov. 16, marking the event's 26th anniversary.

During the festival's opening night yesterday, community members filled the theater with complimentary popcorn and brochures explaining each film in hand, after walking a small red carpet to get inside the theater – a mirrored appreciation for the movie-watchers and their support for the independent films.

ELFF founder and director Susan Woods was in attendance, answering questions and providing relevant information to the audience about each film.

“It’s like a dream,” Woods said. “The film festival is really one of the biggest cultural events in Mid-Michigan. It’s really world-class.”

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Audience members of the East Lansing Film Festival are given cards to rate the shown films on Nov. 10, 2023.

In its 26-year existence, the ELFF has evolved from a four-day event on campus in Wells Hall to an eight-day event at Studio C! Celebration Theater as more and more people come every year.

This year’s festival includes 27 shorts, or films under 90 minutes, separated into three groups – six documentaries and three features. 

The first documentary that premiered during opening night was “The Stan Project,” a 68-minute feature about Stan Zuray, a man who left Boston for Alaska to try and find his purpose and meaning in happiness. Zuray himself and his wife were in attendance.

“It’s a very interesting life and (the film) has beautiful scenery,” Woods said.

ELFF Board Member Jennifer White started volunteering for the festival in 1999 and explained the beauty of the films themselves, as well as the festival overall. White said it's a “great community event” that is important for groups around the country to have. 

“Smaller festivals like (ELFF) give people an opportunity to see movies they’re probably never going to see in a theater or hear about if it weren’t for festivals like this,” White said. “It opens up people to different stories and ideas.”

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An audience member watches the film "Mom & Dad's Nipple Factory" at the East Lansing Film Festival on Nov. 10, 2023.

The fesival's slogan this year is “dam the stream, ditch the couch, dig the big screen"; Woods said this is meant to prompt people to “come back to the theaters" and watch independent films that can't be seen elsewhere.

Similarly, White said that actually going to a movie theater, through film festivals especially, is important to do as it can open people’s minds to film.

“I think it’s really good to just get out and experience something new and see an art form like a film to gain a different perspective on things,” she said.

The festival will be running until Nov. 16; all films will debut in Studio C! Celebration Theater. You can buy tickets through their website and look at the updated schedule for all of the films here.

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Programs for the East Lansing Film Festival spread on the table before the showings begin on Nov. 10, 2023.

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