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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
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Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
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Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
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Tithead 2019 goes off with a wedding bell

The 43rd annual Titular Head film festival, colloquially shortened to “Tithead”, took place this past Saturday, April 27, in the Harris Center. Students make and submit short films to the festival coordinators each year, and a committee of other students then votes to select the videos that will be shown at the festival. Films are comedic, some commenting on aspects of life at Grinnell while others may aim for absurdity or shock value.

This year, Tithead had three award categories: “Most Shocking”, “Most Creative” and “Best Overall”. Mellon post-doctoral fellow and studio art lecturer Ally Christmas judged the event alongside a panel of other professors and alumni to choose the standout films of the night.

“Honestly, I was pretty surprised by … the pieces that were actually played at the festival. I was expecting it to be worse in the sense of crudeness – I had been basically told that it was … pornography, so I was a little worried beforehand, but I thought overall that the quality of the videos was pretty good.”

As Grinnell’s sole instructor of video arts, Christmas had expected that she might be asked to judge the festival. “I had debated it, but I think curiosity won me over,” she said.

Joseph Knopke ’19, a member of this year’s Tithead organizing committee, spent a lot of time going through Tithead footage from previous years to construct a new opening video sequence for the festival.

While watching the old clips, Knopke observed several trends in video content and quality, and said that he is in favor of the apparent movement away from films based in “obscenity for obscenity’s sake” to pieces with higher production quality and social-commentary-based intent.

“There’s a lot of videos that are really effective parodies of advertisements or nature documentaries or admissions materials … there’s a lot of examples of Grinnell students in years past using different editing skills and techniques to really [parody] different things, and most often justifying the most obscene moments.”

The winner of this year’s “Best Picture” award was “Bear Grylls,” a “Man vs. Wild” parody of survivalist reality television. The film was created by Andrea Baumgartel, Mary Rose Bernal, Dennis Chan and Cara Bresnahan, all ’19, on a spring-break road trip.

“It was a different kind of project than, like, a school project – it was on a whim, but we all were in the same mindset, both creatively and being on spring break and being seniors, and just wanting to do something really fun,” Baumgartel said.

Christmas and her co-judges thought that the film was “the best-made piece in terms of cinematic quality, but it was also very dynamic, it was very creative.”

“Campus or Dining” by Mithila Iyer ’19, Nana Okamoto ’20 and Ana Segebre Salazar ’19 won “Most Creative.” Christmas and her fellow judges “just loved that it was both serious and funny … it was a different kind of narrative from all the other videos.”

The award for “Most Shocking” went to “Cumbrella” by Lillie Westbrook and Veronica Thomas, both ’21. “The name kind of tells you why it won … but that was also a really well-made video … the production quality was pretty high,” Christmas said.

While films were the main attraction, the organizers and audience members performed skits on-stage as well, ranging from a topless wrestling match to a lettuce-eating contest won by Anastasia Pulak ’19. 

The most memorable part of the night was a live wedding ceremony, the last event of the festival. Nolan Boggess ’19, who was recently ordained by Poweshiek County, conducted marriage proceedings between his friends Lucie Duffy ’19 and Steven Duong ’19.

“It was a very wholesome Tithead, I think,” said Baumgartel.

“In the era of Grinnell Thumbs Down, that type of Tithead was … wholesome in a way that I didn’t expect. I thought it was going to be a lot more absurd, gross … but, I mean, you ended up leaving having seen this beautiful marriage take place on stage, which was great. I loved that.”

Nolan Boggess ’19 officiates a wedding between Lucie Duffy ’19 and Steven Duong ’19 for the finale of Tithead 2019. Contributed photo.
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