Tribeca Festival to present world premiere of latest release by GVSU filmmaker

A feature film by Grand Valley filmmaker Joel Potrykus is making its world premiere June 8 at the renowned Tribeca Festival.

The film, "Vulcanizadora," is part of the U.S. Narrative Competition for the festival. It marks the first time Potrykus, assistant professor of film and video, has had an entry in the festival after multiple times trying.

"I've been rejected every single time. So, this is a victory for me for sure," said Potrykus, adding that while he is hopeful and confident after every film he makes, "I knew that this film was probably the best and most emotionally expressive film I've made, and that it would connect and leave its mark a little bit heavier with audiences than all my previous films had."

A person sits with their chin resting in their hand. Their other arm is resting atop their legs.
Joel Potrykus wrote, directed and acted in the film that will be featured at the Tribeca Festival.

Potrykus, a veteran filmmaker, said the deep contacts he has made in the film community helped pave the way for his inclusion in the festival. He said he emailed a rough edit to a programmer he knew to provide a sense of his work in progress.

"And a few days later, he had watched it and he showed his team and they were all in agreement that this really fit the vision for the festival that they had," Potrykus said.

Potrykus wrote and directed and also acted in the movie, which was filmed partly in Grand Rapids and partly in the woods and dunes near Manistee. 

He said he needs to keep details vague, but gave this description of the film: "It's really about two friends going out in the woods on a camping trip with a plan that goes wrong, and one of them is left dealing with the emotional repercussions of that."

The film is also hard to categorize, he said. It has elements of suspense and horror and comedy, but doesn't fit neatly into one genre. He noted that films that defy easy classification tend to appeal to Tribeca Festival leaders.

Indeed, the festival's description of the film , states that it "is ideal for those seeking a thought-provoking, genre-defying experience that will linger long after the credits roll." That same description also referred to Potrykus as a "provocateur."

A person stands next to building with their hands in their pockets. The person's reflection is seen.

As he considers his filmmaking, Potrykus said he tends to meld seemingly disparate elements, such as putting his own spin on something he sees in a horror movie and then something funny he saw happening in a parking lot.

While that approach may make it hard to classify his movies in a genre, he said in a broad sense his work would be described as art house films. And along the way he has developed some signature elements. 

For one, he likes to use long, continuous takes to let the audience authentically experience the moment with the actors rather than editing the scene. Another: He has become known for his characters eating sloppily while they think no one is watching, creating what Potrykus called a "voyeuristic view" that deepens insight into characters.

With this breakthrough for Potrykus at a major film festival, he said the benefits include not only prestige but also the maximized exposure as he eyes distribution of the film.

"That's why I am just really grateful to have a big world premiere at Tribeca, because that kind of puts us on the map," Potrykus said.


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