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The first ever virtual “Tithead” film festival will stream live tonight

Image based off graphic by Nicole Rosengurt ’20, contributed by Francess Dunbar ’20.

Despite being separated by COVID-19, Grinnellians will gather digitally to view the 44th Annual Titular Head film festival at 8 p.m. CST on Saturday, May 2.

The event, colloquially referred to as “Tithead,” normally takes place in the Harris Center concert hall. This year, it will be streamed live on Zoom. Audience members will be able to access the stream through a password-protected link that will be sent out to the campus community by email.

Audrey Boyle ‘21, Maggie Coleman ‘20, Francess Dunbar ‘20, Paige Oamek ‘20 and Nicole Rosengurt ‘20 are the organizers of this year’s Tithead. All five are currently living together in their house off campus, and upon hearing no one else had plans to move forward with the film festival, decided to find a way to make one of Grinnell’s most popular traditions happen.

“You can’t put Relays online, but you can stream some films!” said Rosengurt. “This would have been sadder to let go if we knew that we still had the means to do it. It’s the end of the year, you don’t want people to forget about it, so it’s gotta happen.”

Boyle, Coleman, Dunbar, Oamek and Rosengurt sent out a campus-wide email last week calling for student submissions. The organizers modified the festival’s usual students-only guidelines to allow for alumni submissions due to positive responses from alumni about the continuation of Tithead as well as the wider audience a digital format can accommodate.

Since the submission deadline on Thursday, April 30, the housemates have been reviewing films to decide which videos virtual Tithead-goers will see on Saturday night. As usual, Tithead will be judged by three surprise community members.

“The experience of people creating something together and then sharing it and watching together … at its very base form that’s what Tithead is” said Boyle. “And we can keep that in some sense.”

The online format presents a few differences from previous years for both filmmakers and audience members. Tithead is known for its films’ shocking content and lively audience engagement. The more public, online format raises new questions of how to modify content for an online format and allow for live digital interaction.

“If you boo in the crowd at Tithead really no one will know who it is, but if you do it in the chat then it is really obvious. Either way, it will be different the way people react, but I’m hoping there can be a way that audience reactions and commentary can still happen,” said Boyle, suggesting live commenting in the chat function of Zoom.

The decision to adapt Tithead for online viewing follows the precedent set by major film festivals such as South by Southwest, which has made its 2020 films available to stream on Amazon Prime Video. All five organizers pointed out that, while the film festival will look different from previous years, the decision to adapt it for an online format seemed natural.

“This is a tough time and keeping as many elements [of Grinnell] as normal as possible is a good coping mechanism,” said Rosengurt. “We’re really happy for the chance to, honestly as cheesy as it is, keep a tradition alive, and make sure that we don’t lose steam as a school for doing weird, fun things like Tithead, because we don’t want that to disappear.”

Tithead will be available to stream live on Saturday at 8 p.m. CST via this link:

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