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UNG to host Southeastern Film Festival

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The Southeastern Film Festival (SEFF), sponsored by the University of North Georgia (UNG), will bring 80 films to Dahlonega, Georgia, April 10-12 in a free event to recognize international and American independent cinema.

The 2015 film selection features films from 11 countries, including 10 international premieres. The festival is free and open to the public; screenings will be held in the Hoag Auditorium, located on UNG's Dahlonega Campus. While there is no charge for admission, attendees are encouraged to get a ticket via the festival website, as theater seating is limited.

The festival is a great opportunity for film students in UNG's Department of Communication, Media and Journalism, which expanded in 2013 in response to the sustained increase in demand for writers, cinematographers, and media specialists, said Jeff Marker, head of the department. The new, four-year degree offers three concentrations: film and digital media production, multimedia journalism and organizational leadership.

"UNG is excited about the films and talented filmmakers the Southeastern Film Festival will bring to our community," Marker said. "The department in particular is happy to be able to support the festival. It will be a great experience for our growing number of film and digital media majors."

The upcoming festival will celebrate filmmakers and their work and allow attendees to interact with the artists through discussions, innovation events, Awards Night, and numerous festival parties. Awards will be presented for documentary, narrative, experimental, animation, music videos, new media, and screenwriting. The SEFF award, which has a mountain motif, is being produced in UNG's Department of Visual Arts using 3-D printing technology.  

"I am compelled by the range of storytelling in this year's section," said Seth Scofield, programming director for the festival and a film instructor at UNG.  "The 2015 program will engage and challenge audiences with a wide range of stories."

The program was determined by 75 judges from around the world who specialize in all areas of creative development, including celebrity judges Del Shores, Chris Frantz, Sylvia Reed, Roddy Bogawa, and J.J. Sedelmaier. More than 1,700 films from 43 countries were submitted for this year's festival. Usually, film festival submissions require fees, but SEFF waived those fees to include filmmakers who may not be able to pay, like artists from Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.

"A unique component of this year's festival is that we accepted waivers at the beginning of the submission process, so film professionals from disenfranchised countries had the opportunity to enter," said Ava Leigh Stewart, festival director. "We are proud to host filmmakers that might not otherwise have the chance to allow audiences to see their work."

The festival also will feature the screening of 20 spotlight films that run the gamut from light-hearted animation to hard-hitting documentaries, including two award-winning local independent films. Encore screenings include "Imba Means Sing," a documentary set in Uganda about the power of music and the impact of education, and "Paradise Garden," a documentary about legendary folk artist Howard Finster told through the stories of artists and musicians like R.E.M. and The Talking Heads who took pilgrimages to visit him.

"The Spotlight section highlights many veteran film professionals, as well as new ones, while the films' stories deliver fresh commentary and thought provoking concepts," Stewart said. "This year, we are incorporating live performance to heighten the experience; this engages the imagination, and brings audiences together in an unforgettable way." 

The Southeastern Film Festival was founded by independent filmmakers from across the Southeast in an effort to make independent film more prevalent in small towns in the region and help foster connections between film-making professionals across the globe. In addition to the Dahlonega festival, other SEFF events will be held in Atlanta in May and Nashville in November.

In addition to Stewart and Scofield, festival founders include Katie Gathmann, Jeremy Oliver Miller, Leo Santaiti, Spencer Drate, Judith Salavetz, Brooks Robinson, and Orlando Vargas Diaz. 

For more information about the festival or to get free tickets, visit the website at http://southeasternfilm.com/.

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