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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Film festival fire fight

SunDeis and Indie Louies face possible UJ trial

Published: March 19, 2010
Section: Front Page

The SunDeis Film Festival Committee yesterday filed a complaint of slander with the Union Judiciary (UJ) against Illona Yuhaev, a member of the Indie Louies Film Festival committee, for printing false information about SunDeis on the Indie Louies Web site.

The UJ had not decided whether to grant certiorati and hold a trial by press time, because it is “currently working to establish communications with the parties involved in this matter before making any further official decisions,” according to a statement sent Thursday night from UJ Chief Justice Judah Marans.

The disputed statement on Indie Louies’ Web site claims “SunDeis was taken over by the film department for fundraising purposes. Indie Louies is the new student film festival at Brandeis; it is run by stu dents, for students.”

The SunDeis committee criticized the Web site, claiming “this statement is simply not true” and asked the UJ to order it taken down given the statement was published on a site “associated with a Brandeis sponsored event.”

“Objectively, there was no takeover by the film department, and our film festival is not a fundraising gimmick,” the complaint said.

The Film Department decided in mid-February to sponsor Brandeis’ annual film festival, SunDeis, Brandeis’ annual film festival after the festival did not receive the large amount of funding it had from Student Activities in previous years. Student Activities was unable to grant its usual support and funding this year due to a current hiring freeze on a vacant human resources position, Stephanie Grimes, Director of Student Activities, said.

“Our ability to assist in the planning process is limited,” Grimes said. “The involvement with the Film Department and BTV is a great collaboration.”

Chair of the Film, Television and Interactive Media Program, Prof. Alice Kelikian (HIST) said in an interview with the Hoot that students were still largely involved in SunDeis, despite its funds’ origins. “I welcome the entry of Indie Louies to the film community, but it should not be done at the cost of putting down another film festival,” she said.

Oren Nimni ’11, a member of the Indie Louis committee called the complaint “questionable on a number of charges.”

“In the Student [Union] Constitution, there’s no real recourse of action for libel,” Nimni said, while insisting that the statement on their website, did not constitute libel in the first place because it was based in fact.

The complaint accuses Indie Louies of slander, spoken false information, while Nimni referenced the accusation as libel, written false information.

Commenting on the part of the statement claiming that the Film Department is now taking over SunDeis, Nimni said “we’re not saying that in a malicious way.”

Avi Swerdlow, BTV President and a member of the SunDeis committee, said that “To publish things that are not true [isn’t] the right thing to do.”

“Publish anything about us that is true, good or bad, but don’t lie,” Swerdlow said.

Yet Illona Yuhaev ’11, another member of the Indie Louies commented that students do not have a large a role as it seems they do.

“It’s not a student run thing,” Yuheav said. “At the end of the day if [Swerdlow] says one thing and [Kelikian] says [another] thing, its obvious who gets to have the last word.”

All students have been invited to join SunDeis committee planning meetings since February.

“I don’t know how its possible to make students more involved at this point,” Swerdlow said.

Members of the Indie Louies committee have criticized the decision to allow the Film Department and BTV have such a major role in planning the event. “BTV is making it seem like it is student-run,” Yuheav said in an interview with The Hoot. She further asserted that not all of the students have a large role because “some of them are people who are just showed up to the first meeting.”

“Obviously, it’s not democratic and it’s fine because the school is not democratic, but don’t say it is,” Yuhaev said.

The student committee organized nearly all of the planning for SunDeis, including setting up a Web site,, and implementing a new online submissions process on the site, said Narayanan. One of the major changes to this year’s film festival includes a cash prize, rather than the plaques handed out to winners in previous years.

“However, we are essentially letting Prof. Kelikian handle the job of bringing prominent industry professionals to campus since she and the Film Department obviously have better connections than any of the students,” Narayana wrote in an email to The Hoot.

Yet Narayana also wrote that in the recruitment of alumni, students are still helping Kelikian to reach out to them about SunDeis.

Narayana wrote that despite criticism, “all of this has been done by students,” referencing work such as planning events for the weeks of the festival, publicizing the event, and established dates and rules for the festival. “The fact that students believe the Film Department had anything to do with it is a compliment to our core committee!”

Narayana also said that although he was not involved with the planning of SunDeis in previous years, he does not believe that the Film Department has any larger of a role than administrators from Student Activities did in the past.

Kelikian, defending the large planning process of SunDeis, said “SunDeis has grown to be an important part of the arts community at Brandeis, and it seemed obvious to widen and strengthen the film festival rather than dampen it down and make it less inclusive,” Kelikian said.

Nimni, who also criticized the planning process of SunDeis this year, explained that the University “could do the whole ‘bringing the speaker’ part,” and students could have been exclusively involved with the film submissions process.

Yuheav participated on the planning committee for SunDeis last year but two weeks after joining decided, “I wanted to do other things. I did not want to organize at that point.”

Partly because of their frustration over the organization of this year’s SunDeis, Yuheav, Nimni and Tom Charging Hawk ’10, have organized Indie Louies, an entirely student-run film festival, which will take place April 9 and 10. The deadline for submissions is Friday.

Yuheav believes that students would have been able to run SunDeis without extensive funding. “There’s not need to put that much money into a film festival.”