MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – The short animated
depicting a horrific school fire in 1908 won two awards at the Vermont International Film Festival (VTIFF) this week. The Collinwood Fire, directed by Daniel Houghton, and produced by students in the Middlebury Animation Studio, won the Zero Gravity “Most Innovative Film” and Footage Farm USA “Most Creative Use of Archival Footage.”
Festival officials announced the award winners at the festival’s opening night on October 21 during the Vermont Filmmakers Showcase at the Black Box at Main Street Landing Performing Arts Center in Burlington. Collinwood won two of the festival’s nine awards.
Houghton, who heads up the College’s animation studio, collaborated with Professor Michael Newbury on the film, which is the centerpiece of a scholarly website Newbury published earlier this year. The film tells the story of a fire in the Cleveland suburb of Collinwood that killed 172 children. There is no dialogue in the six-minute film, but the intense action, thoughtfully imagined cityscape and rich sound effects provide a high-impact story.
Newbury said the film screening in Burlington, which was attended by about 100 people, was a great chance to spread the word about the new website. “People were very interested in the project and had lots of questions, especially about the fire, its consequences,” he said.
“These are the first two awards for the project and we’re excited and honored to receive them,” said Houghton “We are interested in submitting the project to additional festivals just as soon as we get a moment to do so.”
Newbury initiated the Collinwood Fire Project during his academic leave with support from the College’s Digital Liberal Arts initiative, a Mellon Foundation funded program that encourages faculty to explore new modes of scholarship and collaboration in the digital realm.
Now in its 31st year, VTIFF operates year-round and showcases community film screenings, supports programming like the Global Roots Film Festival, the Burlington Film Society and VTIFF For Schools, and supports Vermont filmmakers.