NWU Communication Professor is First American to Judge Croatian Film Festival
Nebraska Wesleyan’s Communication Studies Department likes to refer to its students and faculty as “Communication Superheroes.” Dave Whitt, Associate Professor of Communication, is no exception.
Whitt recently traveled to Karlovac, Croatia to judge the 17th Annual Youth Film Festival and 5th Annual Four River Film Festival. Attended by high school students from countries all over Europe, the festival featured 70 short films in four different categories, including fiction, documentary, animation, and free-style.
How Whitt ended up judging the film festival is practically from a movie script itself. Two Croatian women earning their master’s degrees at Wayne State College became acquainted with Whitt’s step-mother, and the four had dinner in Lincoln one evening.
“I asked one woman, Marija, what she did, and she said she organized film festivals in Europe. I then mentioned that I teach a film appreciation class at NWU.” Immediately she said "Would you like to come to Croatia and be a juror at our film festival? It was literally that fast.”
The movie script doesn’t end there: Whitt’s flight, hotel, and food were all paid for. “So, basically, I was treated like a rock star,” he joked.
Whitt read extensively about Croatian history, culture, and their civil war to prepare for the trip. It ended up being “one of the best international experiences I’ve ever had.”
The film festival itself featured many “absolutely remarkable” films, including powerful documentaries and “Disney-Pixar Quality” French animated shorts. All the films were in English or had English subtitles. As one of three jurors, Whitt and the other two jurors had the responsibility of judging the top films in each category for both the international entries and then the Croatian entries. Whitt, the first American to judge the festival, also presented the award for the Grand Prix Winner, or best film of the festival.
“I was incredibly honored to have been asked to give out this award,” he said. Whitt also gave a presentation to all the students entitled, “Don’t Be Afraid of Silence, B & W or Citizen Kane: Appreciating Film History.”
“One young woman from Lebanon came up to me after my presentation and said that I inspired her, which meant a lot,” said Whitt.
Visiting Croatia’s national park, the capital city of Zagreb, and the beautiful coast rounded out the experience.
Whitt could be judging film festivals again. A Norwegian film studies club director introduced himself to Whitt in Croatia and together they discussed the possibility of Whitt judging at a Norwegian film festival.
“So, while it wasn't an official invitation, it could be something to look forward to in the future,” said Whitt.
But for right now, he’s content with using the experience next semester as a professor. Whitt plans to talk about Croatia when discussing film in his Mass Media or Film Appreciation classes.
Whitt is currently on sabbatical this semester. In addition to judging the film festivals, he is editing his third book on comparative mythology.
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