Journalist-turned-actress Ingrid Jean-Baptiste, alongside photographer and businesswoman Sonia Jean-Baptiste (who also happens to be Ingrid’s mother), founded the Chelsea Film Festival in 2013. This mother-daughter duo has since revolutionized film festivals around the world by supporting and exhibiting the work of up-and-coming filmmakers.
Ingrid Jean-Baptiste was born in Paris and grew up traveling between Paris and London. She originally worked as a journalist but came to New York City five years ago to ‘learn the art of acting.’ Ingrid pursued a career in acting until she was in a tragic car accident in Chelsea, which injured eight people and left her with broken ribs and a fractured spine.
Ingrid struggled with the aftermath of the accident but explains that it taught her to refigure her perspective. So she approached her mother (who was also in the accident) with the idea to create the Chelsea Film Festival; thus, this international film festival is founded on the strength of two inspiring women who turned a tragic situation into a positive force in their lives and the lives of emerging creative figures.
This year, the Chelsea Film Festival will debut 66 films (19 feature films and 42 short films) from 24 countries. From these 66 films, a jury will select the Grand Prix winner. Each of these films will be a debut of some kind — whether they are international, national, or local premieres. The festival’s closing film, Valley, has been featured across the world in Israel, Paris, and Cyprus, but it will be making its American debut at the Chelsea Film Festival. Another highly anticipated film, P.T.S.D., will be making its world debut.
To enter, filmmakers submit their work online, and a selection committee chooses the most promising entries. Films flood the festival’s servers from January to August; so, aspiring filmmakers may enter their work in just a few months when the committee begins accepting next year’s submissions.
The Chelsea Film Festival is unlike any other film festival. All featured films are debuts from emerging artists, so any aspiring creative figure may enter their work. Therefore, all films are also contemporary, as they were created within the last year. Perhaps most notably, all films deal with global issues. This highlights the international edge of the Chelsea Film Festival; while it’s held in New York City, it is indeed a global event — artists from across the world submit their work, and people flock from across the world to see it.
The theme of this year’s festival is ‘Women in Film,’ a global issue that Ingrid and her mother, Sonia, wish to deeply explore. The idea stemmed from their personal experience producing the festival and aims to underscore the difficulties women face in the film industry. Through this theme, Ingrid and Sonia hope to raise awareness and see an improvement.
Of the 66 films featured this year, women directed 21. Ingrid explains that this is certainly an improvement from past festivals, but the filmmaking industry remains disproportionate. Female directors have greater difficulty funding their projects, which perpetuates gender inequality in filmmaking.
With so many fantastic films to debut, the Chelsea Film Festival is open in three different locations: the SVA Theater, the Kate Murray Amphitheatre, and The David Dubinsky Student Center. These theaters will be showing films simultaneously, so be sure to check the festival’s schedule to catch the films you don’t want to miss.
For those with an interest in entering the film industry, we recommend Reel Magic Hour on October 17th, from 10:30am to 6pm. At this five-panel series, you will have the opportunity to learn the business of film. Panels include ‘The Film Business: New Opportunities for Strategic, Financial and Alternative Investors’, ‘’Law and Order’ Breaking into progressive territories: The Middle-East and China’, and ‘From Idea to Distribution.’ This event is accessible with a festival pass and is a great way to network with those who are knowledgeable about the business.
The beauty of film will continue beyond the festival at the Kino & Vino Series, a yearlong program that brings one film a month to audiences at Bow Tie Cinemas Chelsea. The first screening, on November 9th, will feature the Grand Prix winner of the Chelsea Film Festival. After each film, there will be a Q&A session with the director.
We asked Ingrid which films she’s most excited to show this year, and while she doesn’t ‘want to seem pretentious,’ all of this year’s films are outstanding and worth seeing. The 2015 Chelsea Film Festival promises to be one of New York City’s most enlightening cultural events this autumn, so this is one that you don’t want to miss.
SVA Theatre, 333 West 23rd Street, New York, NY, USA, +1 212 592 2980
By Sean Scarisbrick
Sean is a graduate student at Hunter College where he studies Middle Eastern history. He is particularly interested in cultural history and language’s contribution to culture. He loves Shakespeare, Malala Yousafzai, Game of Thrones, foreign languages (Arabic, Spanish, and French), and Arabic street art.