Eli Beutel wins COVID-eo Film Festival and Competition

The title card from Eli Beutel's film "Hesh's of the Afternoon" is pictured. Courtesy Eli Beutel

The conclusion of the Tufts COVID-eo Film Festival and Competition saw Eli Beutel, and his film “Hesh’s of the Afternoon,” take first prize

“It’s about a boy who’s maybe conflicted with who he is,” Beutel said in an interview. “There’s things about him, you know — what kind of clothes he wears, what he does for fun — and he thinks that those all make sense. And that is what makes him, but one day in a dream, this image of himself becomes very confused. And he kind of has an internal conflict where he’s not sure who he is anymore. And he skateboards.”

Beutel took heavy inspiration from the 1943 experimental film classic of a similar name, “Meshes of the Afternoon” by Maya Deren. Beutel’s film uses small details to maintain the film’s aesthetic, such as soft lighting to help mimic the original film’s black and white color palette. Additionally, some scenes draw direct visual parallels to the original film, like a character’s face obstructed by digital static while the original featured a character with a mirror for a face. 

“[The film is] kind of a parody, I wouldn’t even call it that, really, it’s not making fun of anything … it’s a reference,” Beutel said.

The film was a passion project of sorts, as Beutel is a film minor and an applied physics major, but one that kept him honest. 

“[The contest was] just kind of a good excuse,” he said. “It was a deadline, which I don’t usually have. It’s like, okay, they’re accepting films by this date. So I was like, I’ll make one.”

The pressure of the contest is just one part of the greater force driving Beutel forward in filmmaking, though, as he elaborated, “If it’s an average weekend night, I’m not, you know, going out to a party or something. I’m just kind of with my close friends doing what I want to do. And so for me … I don’t have any kind of FOMO on nights when I am just sitting, on my laptop editing, or I’m sitting at my desk writing a script or writing a movie.”

Be that as it may, Beutel was gracious when reflecting on his experiences filmmaking during the pandemic. “I’m kind of privileged enough that … I’ve been safe. And I’ve been in good company. And nobody I really love has been affected negatively by [COVID-19].”

Like any good artist, Beutel’s work remains unfinished, though his plans for future projects are somewhat fluid for the time being. 

“Over winter break, I’m gonna be going on a road trip with some friends from home,” Beutel said. “One of them said he’s gonna write a script. And we hope to kind of make like a road movie, you know, truly on the road. But that’s not a hard plan.” 

Whatever Beutel may have in store, his contest-winning work suggests that his next project will prove to be as interesting a mix as applied physics and film.