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Student film festival gives sight into the medical world

black square with "vitreous film festival" in big white letters. underneath it says "healthcare reexamined" and on the bottom there is white text that says "in translation//march 2020"

By A. Jade Munsie

On March 19, Edmonton’s Vitreous Film Festival is back at the U of A for its second year, celebrating student films that focus on experiences in the medical world. Submissions are open, and this year’s “In Translation” theme plans to examine communication within the medical field. According to Jamie Grunwald, the festival chair, whether someone is a healthcare professional, a medical student or a former patient, there’s a story to tell. 

“This isn’t just about, you know, people who are in healthcare or students who are in healthcare, it’s just about providing a space for people to share the experiences they’ve had. And I think it can be very therapeutic to do that in an artistic format, to take experiences you’ve had in the past and having to turn it into something that people can connect with on the same level that film can do,” said Grunwald. 

Following the successful inaugural year of 2021’s “Backlines” theme, which gave insight into the behind-the-scenes lives of frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, “In Translation” will bring to life another side of medicine. 

“‘In Translation” developed from the idea of emotional translation, where we’re taking not only the medical knowledge that we are sharing between all these different people and healthcare experiences, but also taking what we are experiencing as individuals who are a part of the system—then presenting that in a way that people can understand and relate to as well,” said Grunwald.

Grunwald, who is currently in her third year of medical school at the U of A, recalls how interesting life as a medical student is, but she says the lack of outlets to talk about the venture has inspired this year’s festival. 

“There’s not always the space to talk about [experiences]. Ultimately, it was the idea of taking these powers of storytelling through film and the impact that healthcare has on people’s lives and what can be learned, and what can be shared from sharing those stories with an impact […] My desire is to have more spaces for stories about healthcare to be told,” said Grunwald.

Whether applicants have a background in medicine or not, they are encouraged to share stories and experiences from all walks of medical perspectives. 

“We want this, the films, to be about more than just med student experiences and medical experiences, and really make it about healthcare […] Whatever direction it’s going, it’s about being able to take that experience and see it in a way that is understood by the other people around,” said Grunwald.

The festival centres itself on the universality of healthcare. It’s something that is naturally experienced or familiar to all. The question is, how can it be understandable, and where’s the potential for growth and change?

“There are all these kinds of isolated pieces, but what’s really critical is that we find a way in healthcare to actually communicate with each other [so] that the concerns of the physician are being expressed …in a way that is still empowering [the patient], and that the patient concerns are being expressed to their nurses [and] the nurses are communicating to the rehab therapists,” said Grunwald.

The Vitreous Film Festival accepts submissions until March 6 and is open to all post-secondary students. Films can be of any genre, but no longer than 10 minutes. There will be prizes allotted to first, second, and third-place films, and attendees can vote on their favourite for “Audience Choice.” 

“We really want this to be an accessible space where people can be involved and hear their stories and people can engage in. So we are excited by any way people want to be engaged in it and really love the potential of having student films involved. It means a lot to us,” said Grunwald.

The festival will be a hybrid event allowing audiences to attend either in person, COVID restrictions depending, or virtually. To enter or learn more about the festival, visit Vitreous Film Festival – 2022

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