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WNIJ's summary of news items around our state.

Mental Health Issues, Self-Identity Among Themes At Annual NIU Film Festival


This week is the 17th annual Reality Bytes film festival at Northern Illinois University.



Organizers say they've received more than 60 film submissions, which they will narrow down to around 20 to be viewed by the public.


The annual event is hosted by the NIU Department of Communication.


Organizer Tatianna Salisbury says there are some recurring themes in this year’s films.


“A lot of it is like, coming of age stories; so somebody overcoming an obstacle and really growing into their own identity and maturing. I think that’s a common theme we have seen throughout these. Other than that, overcoming a very large obstacle; we had a documentary about a physical disability, or we have things about metal health issues as well," she says, "or if it's something as simple as there is, literally something physical like a rock in your way and you’re trying to get over it, so definitely a lot of perseverance and determination in these films.”


Tom Burton also helped organize Reality Bytes. He says they've seen an increase in the number of submissions.


“One thing we noticed in particular were the increase in the submissions of high school films. And that’s one thing that Laura Vazquez highlighted," he said. "We are seeing a lot more younger student filmmakers making and producing quality content."


They both emphasize the festival's strong history.


“This is the 17th annual coming up, and it was started by our professor, Laura Vazquez," Salisbury said. "She started this as a way to showcase student filmmakers, because obviously in our community there was a lack of showcasing student talent. She then expanded it to be international so we could get submissions. We get submissions from Australia, China, Japan and a couple of other places as well."


Burton says Vazquez has attributed the submission uptick to FilmFreeway.


Salisbury says the variety of films reaches different interests in the community.


"You definitely see quality dramas, some really exceptional horror, thriller, creepy films," she said. "And then you also see some really sweet stories and funny comedies too."


Burton says they're launching a social media campaign surrounding the films, and he hopes attendees will participate at the festival.


"I know we are planning on doing kind of a social media contest, like a hashtag contest," he said. "So while you are on Twitter, use the hashtag “#NIURealityBytes” to your posts and we are going to randomly select a winner, and they will be awarded a cash prize for their tweets.”


Salisbury says community members shouldn't miss out on this year's event.


“There are not a lot of film festivals in Illinois; there are some major ones, but I definitely think that Reality Bytes does not always get the credit it deserves for the talent it displays," she said. "We have so much talent here, and I think that it is really important in our community that we support the arts and we support young filmmakers who want to turn this into a career -- or who are just doing this for fun and creative expression."


The festival will be held Tuesday through Thursday at NIU's Cole Hall Jameson Auditorium.


It’s free to attend and open to the public.


A list of films is available on the Reality Bytes website

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