Tech film festival entertains

HOUGHTON – From the Large Hadron Collider to a small dinner party, local cinephiles got a rare opportunity to watch lesser-known movies on the big screen at the 10th annual 41 North Film Festival at Michigan Technological University this weekend.

The four-day festival included a variety of independent documentaries, original features and short films.

Saturday night, the Rozsa Center was filling up for the highly anticipated screening of Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood,” a film about a boy and his family shot over a 12-year period.

“I feel like this has been a really great year for the festival, and I hope that it builds some momentum so that even more of the community turns up for it,” said festival director Erin Smith.

In two cases, the filmmakers were also there to talk about their work. Mark Levinson, director of “Particle Fever,” about the Large Hadron Collider, led a question-and-answer session after his movie. So did Ravi Patel, director and actor in the romantic comedy “Meet the Patels.” He was accompanied by his father, Vasant Patel, who graduated from Michigan Tech in 1970.

“It’s really important to me to bring the filmmakers here, because I think it’s an entirely different experience to hear them talk about what it is that they do,” Smith said.

To choose the lineup, Smith paid close attention to other film festivals, as well as where films were at in their distribution. For the most part, she tries to get movies before people can see them.

“We’re seeing ‘The Overnighters’ here before Chicago,” she said.

That film, about a pastor who takes in workers during the North Dakota oil boom, was a favorite for Smith, who called it “a profound, great piece of filmmaking.” But they’re all good, she said.

“I try to have a variety, things that appeal to people that are interested in science and engineering, people who want to be entertained – ‘Meet the Patels’ was incredibly entertaining,” she said. “I know the students like a good sci-fi thriller, so we got ‘Coherence,’ which I think they liked.”

Smith also tries to bring in short films, which this year ran from a tour of the Yangtze River to a shift at an Irish gas station.

Formerly the Northern Lights Film Festival, the name was changed in part to avoid confusion with other festivals of that name.

“We thought 41 North had a little more edge to it,” Smith said.

Teresa Munoz, a geology student at Michigan Tech, watched “Boyhood” with her daughter, Sofia Guzman, a 10th grader at Houghton High School. Both loved the movie.

“I think it’s a good idea,” Munoz said of the festival. “We are international students here, and it was a very nice opportunity to watch movies like that here.”

Karol Pelc of Hancock, a professor emeritus at MTU in technology and innovation management, saw both “Boyhood” and “Meet the Patels.”

“They were excellent, especially this one,” he said after watching “Boyhood.” “High-quality. Very good acting, the concept. Perfect.”