Fame in Vain
UW-Stout faculty produce award-winning short film
Vanitá, a film directed by former UW-Stout professor Kevin Pontuti and starring former Menomonie resident Alexandra Loreth, won two awards at the Los Angeles International Underground Film Festival on Nov. 19. Pontuti and four other UW-Stout crewmembers left with the Best Slow Cinema award and the Audience award.
Peter Galante, Ed Jakober, Keif Oss, and Jennifer Sansfacon of UW-Stout contributed to Vanitá, which is the third of three short films produced in support of Pontuti’s future full-length film concept, The Burning Branches. These films explore love, sin, redemption, vanity, and self-image, portraying the themes using imagry inspired by 15th-century European life and art. Along with other pieces, the productions are part of Pontuti’s multimedia series, The Poetry of Penance.
“It’s rare that a film wins the Slow Cinema category and the Audience Award,” Pontuti said. “We were obviously thrilled to find out about the L.A. awards. I think it says a lot about the quality of the audience and the film.”
In Vanitá, a young woman finds a mirror, which Pontuti uses to investigate vanity, obsessive compulsion and self-destructive behavior. The film was inspired in part by Vanitas art from the European dark ages, which comments on the fleeting nature of life and earthly pleasures. He leaves interpretation largely up to the viewer by steering away from dialogue and narrative. Audience reactions and impressions complete the art, according to Pontuti.
Galante, who acted as producer, director of photography, and set designer, saw that completion. “I think people react to it very viscerally,” he said. “You’re not sure if it is real at the end.”
“Pontuti’s latest installment of his Poetry of Penance series represents strongest the sentiments of horror, of darkness, even of violence, albeit not explicit, that the viewer might associate with the Medieval Ages,” Nadin Mai wrote of the film for The Art(s) of Slow Cinema website.
Vanitá, which was filmed on the UW-Stout campus in Millennium Hall, has been shown at international film festivals along with its counterparts.