DOCUTAH Gala sees increased support, growing from 14 attendees to 300

ST. GEORGE – The sixth annual DOCUTAH International Documentary Film Festival kicked off Monday with an opening gala at the Electric Theater in St. George.

DOCUTAH Creator and Executive Director Phil Tuckett discussed the growth of the festival throughout the years and said the festival’s first screening had only 14 in attendance the opening night six years ago, whereas this event had almost 300.

“We want to get as big as possible,” Tuckett said. “But we want to stay close to our identity which is documentary only.”

There were many in attendance at the gala event willing to pay the $50 per person ticket price to support DOCUTAH, including members of the community, volunteers, faculty of Dixie State University and filmmakers – both students and professionals – featured in this year’s festival.

Dinner was provided by Cappeletti’s next door, followed by a few remarks from DSU President Biff Williams and St. George Mayor Jon Pike. The festivities continued with a short concert performance by Ryan Shupe and the Rubberband.

The featured documentaries included “White Earth,” a short award-winning film by J. Christian Jensen about oil fields in North Dakota, followed by “The Devil & The Angel,” an hour long piece presented by the DSU Films about a violin maker from Leeds.

“I think that (documentaries) are underrated and that is what this entire festival is about,” said Kat Lee, student director of The Devil & The Angel.

DSU students who were enrolled in the Documentary Production course during Spring semester all pitched ideas of a film to create and then voted from that list.

Lee presented the idea to produce a documentary on her father-in-law Kevin Lee, a master luthier, or world-renowned violinist and violin maker. The crew of students spent two days a week during the semester filming at Kevin Lee’s violin shop, and then continued to fine-tune the film throughout the summer.

The DSU Films department is highly intertwined with DOCUTAH, Tuckett said. For the past two years, the festival has opened with student films from DSU, he said, and added:

As we grow our program we need an identity. If part of our identity is ‘this is where the documentary film festival is’ then I think it benefits everybody in the program. We want DOCUTAH to be an adjunct and an interconnection with everything else (DSU Films does).

Local volunteers of the film festival Brian and Christy Christiansen said they have been involved with the festival since its beginning.

“We spend anywhere from 8-12 hours a day for the couple months leading up to the festival just consumed with DOCUTAH,” Brian Christiansen said, “but it’s a part of our family and a part of our life.”

Not only has the festival impacted their lives but the lives of their children, the couple said, adding that their daughter was so moved by several documentaries from the first year of the festival that she hopes and aspires to participate in humanitarian work internationally.

“Go see a show!” Brian and Christy Christiansen said. “You can’t go wrong. There are so many great films it is going to be difficult to see everything.”

DOCUTAH runs this week from Tuesday-Saturday. Daily tickets are $7 and all-event passes are $27. Students are free.

Additionally, there will be four days of free filmmaker seminars from noon to 3:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday at the DSU Eccles Center Main Stage in St. George. 

Locations vary on the campus of DSU; The DiFiore Center in St. George; Kanab; Mesquite, Nevada; and many other venues. Visit the trailers Web Page to make your selections, and then visit the schedule Web page of DOCUTAH to find out where to see your next favorite documentary.

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