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Film Maker Rick Kariolic Takes
New Direction with The
2nd Annual Chashama
Film Festival

Written by Elias Stimac


Opposite Photo: Rick Kariolic

The 2nd Annual Chashama Film Festival, THE FESTIVAL OF THE WORLDS, will run October 22nd- 26th at chasama Theater Space, 217 East 42nd Street, NYC (visit for screening and ticket information).

Film director and producer Rick Kariolic is funding and curating this year’s series, which sets out to “explore global expression through filmmaking, while setting the stage for audiences and filmmakers to cultivate the unknown in various cultures.” The Chashama Film Festival has become a platform for a spectrum of cultural, political, and philosophical ideologies, presented in an environment designed to foster creative and intellectual expansion. This year the festival will screen 80 movies from over 30 countries spanning all seven continents.

In addition to his festival duties, Kariolic is currently directing and producing a documentary on the history of 42nd Street. He has directed and produced many films, ranging from experimental to a feature-length documentary. His imagery focuses on life situations, including the birth of a child or the rescue of a friend, never turning off his humanity or the camera to share in “real time” moments and events through film and photography.

In 2006, Kariolic received a space grant from Chashama for his exhibition of “paint and shoot” and his photography exhibition “Europe” was shown at the chashama Black Box. Internationally, his works were featured at the BE HERE Festival in the former Yugoslavia at performance venues in Macedonia, Croatia, Slovenia and Serbia in 2004.

New York Cool had a chance to catch up with this prolific talent on the eve of the upcoming festival.

Elias Stimac: How does your hometown of Chicago compare to and differ from New York?

Rick Kariolic: My hometown of Beverly Hills on the South Side of Chicago was not a diverse place. I feel like I didn’t learn too much about foreign cultures in Chicago except through college and here I am exposed to everything you can think of. New York is full of a variety of cultures where there is so much to learn. They are both super competitive cities where you have to bust your ass, make connections and maintain them, just to get ahead. I love both cities —the chaos, the competition.

Elias Stimac: What was your life like growing up?

Rick Kariolic: I experimented with a lot of different things growing up, most notably fighting. I was the youngest of a group of about twelve boys who were always playing sports and sometimes the games turned into fights. Being the youngest, the bigger kids (including my brother) would kick my ass to feel better about themselves. So you could say learning the art of defense is my first craft. Sports and being physical was also an important part of growing up and I associate physicality with the arts.

Elias Stimac: When did you start to get interested in the arts?

Rick Kariolic: I feel creativity manifests in a lot of different ways when you're young. I used to collect colorful rocks and shells and glass and beer caps. I’d always draw on my homework, in my school books, on my walls. When I got a little older I grabbed spray paint and painted different cars, garages. I used to take everything apart to figure out how it worked and tried putting it back together to make something else, like a time machine or a ghost finder, which never worked but that didn't stop me.

Elias Stimac: Did your school years help or hinder your artistic instincts?

Rick Kariolic: My artistic background was mostly learned by watching the older kids, copying them and trying to get better than them. I learned different art things in school but I didn't care about school, I was too fidgety and couldn't sit still for too long. I was more of a physical person. As it goes in my documentary The Fashion Laboratory, my dad was a photographer, he gave me a camera, he showed me how to focus and I was off. First chance I had, I took a photography class. In school, I'd ask everyone to make a strange position and a crazy face then take their picture. I was relentless and shot as much film as I could. However, the school wouldn't publish any crazy photos in our yearbook so I had to take a few normal ones.

Elias Stimac: When did you first decide you wanted to be a filmmaker?

Rick Kariolic: There were always video cameras around when I was growing up and I’d ask to use them. When I couldn’t, that would make me want it more. As soon as they put that camera down and walked away I was there, turning it on and playing with it. I remember being so fascinated with zooming in on the floor or a pipe on the wall. Pretty lame now to think about it but I remember that feeling of power it gave me because it was a magical tool that distorted recorded reality.

Elias Stimac: You went on to a career in moviemaking. Tell us about some of the films you have directed.

Rick Kariolic: My first film was a short called No Witnesses, which I wrote, directed and starred in. It was a freshman college film about Jeff, who was getting followed by a dark documentarist chronicling Jeff and his dealings with robbing people and leaving "no witnesses.” I made a few music videos about drug addiction and depression. In my films I like to show realities of hardship and address issues that people around me were dealing with. These tragedies were omnipresent in my neighborhood and making semi-controversial movies seemed like a dedication to them.

Elias Stimac: Can you describe your current film projects?

Rick Kariolic: I have two projects in the works – The Documentary on 42nd Street and The Fashion Laboratory. The 42nd Street film has been a project in the making since I first officially moved here in 2002 and became involved with a Chashama-sponsored theater group that was housed at 111 west 42nd street. I was running around with a camera capturing different things. The theaters were getting torn down, and then I got a job working on the site continuing the documenting. I began researching the street and interviewing people from the United Nations to the Circle Line. There is way too much info to make one doc so I cut the movie in half and began focusing on the first release, which documents from 5th avenue to Hudson River. In the doc we see how Times Square and the heart of New York begins, we see the transformation of the theater district to the deuce to tourist central and what events took place to make these changes work. We follow stories told and made by Seymour Durst, Mickey Rourke, Jean-Claude Baker, Douglas Durst, Bob Fox, Rick Cook, Steve Olson and many more. The Fashion Laboratory is a journey of a male (me) discovering the artist inside, following him through his life to see how he becomes this New York City expressionist through his energy and multi-platform art experiment.

Elias Stimac: Why did you decide to turn your attention to curating a film festival?

Rick Kariolic: It came about by wanting to show my first feature doc to people. I found a space to show it 2 months in advance. All that time to just show one movie seemed wasteful. I checked with Chashama and I had the space and equipment available to use at my discretion. I thought it would be great to help other artists who wanted to show their work as well. We launched a guerrilla/internet campaign to get movies, and it all came together. It's worth noting that this film festival was the first festival I ever attended. Oh, and I never screened my movie.

Elias Stimac: What makes Chashama a good venue for your event?

Rick Kariolic: The chashama space is a great venue because they cater to creative artists and want to help them however they can; their work is a group effort and they have a shared vision. What I'd like to do is bring Chashama back over to the tourist trap that is Times Square and inject culture back to this commercial area. I'd like to help make another part of Manhattan, where the worlds already meet, a film festival destination.

Elias Stimac: Tell us why the theme “The Festival of Worlds” is important in today’s social and political climate.

Rick Kariolic: Our society is becoming more and more involved in topics that are deemed important by the media, but not noticing other matters that are also important on a global scale. Take education -- the world is changing yet our education system is basically staying the same. I guess it has to do with individual's comfort zones—people are not comfortable moving beyond their limits, which creates censorship and bias and nobody gets educated on the subject. The way our world is becoming with ease of communication, we should start to learn about the rest of the world and understand personal and social issues that are of concern so we can understand where others are coming from. Creating understanding can lead to peace between cultures that have been at war or have been unknown to each other. Which is why I'd like to launch a viral film festival next year, bringing "Festival of the Worlds" to the world.

Elias Stimac: Which films in the festival are you most proud of attaining?

Rick Kariolic: I really like Marathon Beirut because of the message they are putting across; Expansive Grounds, because it tackles the current German point of view from a tragic time of tyranny; Dirty Step Upstage, because the singer song writer filmmaker Amber Moelter puts on an exceptional display of all-around talent; it drew me in; and Bhutan: Taking the Middle Path to Happiness, because it is about a remote place of the world.

Elias Stimac: How can filmmakers get involved in future Chashama Film Festivals?

Rick Kariolic: We would love filmmakers to get involved with the festival through getting the word out about it. They are welcome to become part of our team, to build the festival bigger each year, and bring ideas to the table. We are an open festival in terms of growth; people with knowledge of film and its world would make it even better.

Elias Stimac: How much of an influence on your filmmaking and photography does living in New York have on you?

Rick Kariolic: NY has had a great influence on the way I do things, as there's so much variety here. Coming from Chicago where I learned filmmaking, and now using it here and seeing the possibilities that numerous other artists use expands my craft and makes my ideas flourish more than I thought possible.







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