A Film Festival Spectacle

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 am | By Dan Neely '09

Let me tell you a little about Titular Head, Grinnell’s own homegrown film festival. Now don’t get the wrong impression. We’re not sophisticated filmmakers. We don’t watch in silence and clap politely at the end. And we definitely don’t submit the movies on time.

To give you an idea, some recent successful Titular Head movies have been about a fearsome rivalry between two racquetball players, dancing dining hall staff, a campaign to elect our student government president as the new U.S. president, and a tale about a student’s epic struggle to become the best streaker on campus. Raucous cheering and catcalls accompanied the screenings, making the event even more fun. For the past 32 years, students and a few brave faculty and staff have squeezed into the limited seating to watch not so much a film “festival,” but rather a rare spectacle that celebrates this unique campus community we all know and love.

It’s important to note that Titular Head wasn’t always a film festival. It actually got its start in 1976 as a short skit show in conjunction with Grinnell Relays, another fine Grinnell tradition still happening each year. Who knows if the founders had any idea of what exactly they were creating? Even the origins of the name have been lost to the mists of time.

During the 1980s, camcorders hit the scene and folks started submitting videos instead of practicing skits. Gradually the tradition began to move away from the Grinnell Relays, eventually evolving into a short film show traditionally held on the same day but later in the evening. With improvements in technology, film quality also got better and archiving became a possibility. A new era of shorts began in the late ’90s with the creation of consumer digital editing software, and since then we’ve seen the iMovie pushed to its limits.

This spring, the student body celebrated the 32nd Titular Head. We handed out nearly all of our tickets within the first hour they were available. Eager fans filled the lobby of Harris Concert Hall and crammed into the bleacher seating for the opportunity to scream, cheer, and boo 23 films over the course of two and a half hours. All that enthusiasm — from the audience, judges, and filmmakers — contributed to another successful chapter in Titular Head history.

Titular Head is a great show, but there’s more to it than good laughs and big crowds. I’ve had the privilege of helping out for two years now, and I’ve discovered that the films allow you to really note the incredible community and quirks of Grinnell. Regardless of some of the bad films and bad hair in the ’90s archives, this event has consistently documented our excitement and senses of humor, and really illustrates the unique vibe of Grinnell.

But honestly, I can’t give you that a good idea of what Titular Head is all about. Ask other people around on campus, search YouTube, and get a ticket for next year. Even better, grab a camcorder and make some local history. Come be a part of just one of the many spectacles that makes Grinnell spectacular.

Dan Neely '09 is a Psychology major from Chicago, Illinois.