Student Max Folino’s film in 2021 Freep Film Festival


Photo courtesy of Oakland University News

OU student Max Folini. His short film titled “Small Town Syndrome” will be include in the 2021 Freep Film Festival.

Uploaded to Youtube on Dec. 5, 2020, “Small Town Syndrome” is a reflective short film about Oakland University student Max Folino’s life in his hometown New Buffalo, Michigan. As reported by the Oakland News, the film ‒‒ having won “Best Student Film” at the OU Grizzdance Film Festival  ‒‒ will be included in the 2021 Freep Film Festival, which runs from Sept. 22 through Sept. 26. 

“I would not have had the ability or drive to create my film if it weren’t for the OU Cinema Studies staff,” Folino said to Oakland News. “My first film class at OU was with Professor Julia Yezbick. By the following year, it was in her class in which I created ‘Small Town Syndrome.’” 

A point of particular pride for Folino was his film’s participation in the Freep Film Festival’s “Real Fresh” competition. “Small Town Syndrome” is one of the only ten short films selected by the festival’s jury as quality enough for the “Real Fresh Showcase.” Out of a field of 26 total student submissions ‒‒ from universities such as OU, Michigan State University, Wayne State University, University of Michigan and the University of Windsor ‒‒  Folino’s film was selected as some “of the best documentary work from our region’s colleges.” 

“It has been construed as pessimistic, and that’s okay. The film is meant to be interpreted and related to in any way the viewer seems fit,” Folino said to Oakland News. “I won ‘Best Student Film’ at Grizzdance Film Festival this year and to think that I would have another opportunity to be included in another film festival in the first place is seriously shocking. I am so grateful to the university staff for nominating my film and I am still recovering from the shock of learning my film was included in the festival’s Real Fresh Competition.”

The short film features Folino’s personal narration, and centers on unrelenting snapshots of the rainy, dejected grayscale of New Buffalo. A chronicle whose uniqueness is found in its inanimate scenes ‒‒  the film is curiously devoid of human life ‒‒ with only the shadow of Folino appearing for a few sparse seconds. 

However, upon a completed viewing of the film, one is hard pressed to not have gained an insight into Felino’s perception of the subdued landscape that is New Buffalo. Even if one had not lived in a small town themselves, this film provides a brief but mellowing insight into having one’s existence consist of a few square miles on the southeastern coast of Lake Michigan. 

The 2021 Freep Film Festival will feature more than 35 screenings of feature, short films, and feature length films during its Sept. 22 through 26 duration. COVID-19 precautions have caused the festival to eliminate “walk up” ticket sales on the days of the events, and include various methods of screening films such as indoor, outdoor, and virtual venues. For anyone planning to attend, the assorted indoor screening venues are enforcing a vaccine mandate (unless an attendee can supply a negative COVID-19 test from within 72 hours), as well as a mask mandate unless eating or drinking.