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Ole Miss professor aids students in film making as well as creating his own film, "Man at the Door"

Jared Burleson


In the background, the sound of children playing drowns out director Alan Arriveé’s voice. 

“My daughter’s friends are over, and we just got a new puppy,” he said. “I guess now is as good of time as any to talk.”

Arriveé is a straight shooter. His words come out crisp and clear. He speaks with no accent and fills a conversation on film with all the technical jargon that comes with being in the filmmaking industry for years. One gets the feeling that he was worked for those words. 

Arriveé is relatively new to Oxford. He started teaching at the University of Mississippi in the fall of 2010 as the assistant professor of cinema in the theater department, as well as cinema director for the university. 

He has played a hand in kickstarting the film program in the theater department. Just last year, Arriveé started the now-annual Evening of Cinema, which features work made entirely by students to be shown on the screen. Coincidently, the film minor was approved in the fall of 2010, the same semester Arriveé arrived at Ole Miss. 

The short film he directed, “Man at the Door,” is entered in the narrative short category at this year’s Oxford Film Festival. The story is set in Chicago and is an allegory for immigration between Mexico and the United States. “Man at the Door” may be fiction, but the subject matter is all too real to Arriveé.  

“I was drawing from experience in the construction industry in Los Angeles and Chicago while supporting my art,” he said. “The film is based on autobiographical experience with Hispanic workers who were illegal immigrants in the construction and meat packing industry.”

Arriveé has been working on the project for years with the help of a grant from Northwestern University, his alma mater, and now at Ole Miss, Arriveé’s project is complete. 

For him, that means not going back to the editing room after the festival circuit.  

“All films, if you allow yourself, are potentially never finished,” Arriveé said.  “Some directors, they tweak their films in every festival. Considering (the) amount of time it took to complete, it’s done and I am moving on.” 

He said this 30-minute short will be different than the last one he worked on, “Silent Radio,” which won several awards, including Best Foreign Film and Best Cinematography at the 2007 European Independent Film Festival. 

Arriveé, who shot “Man at the Door” with a Super 16 camera and no tripod at the behest of his cinematographer and collaborator Thomas Castillo, said he took a different approach to filming this time around. 

“‘Silent Radio’ was about changing the form of what people expect,” her said. “‘Man at the Door’ is more about socio-political content. In this film, I am drawing from the style of (the) 1970s, which had more of a raw look that was more objective. It feels more like a document but not like a docu-drama.” 

To put the differences into perspective, there were about 15 crew members on the set daily for “Silent Radio.” “Man at the Door” had only two to five crew members per day. 

Arriveé is no stranger to film festivals, so when he said the Oxford Film Festival has something to offer, he meant it. Arriveé, who has served on the jury of many European festivals, in most cases as the only American, was on the small jury for Mississippi films at 2011’s festival. 

He said this year, the directors took an unorthodox way of choosing the films to feature in the festival

“In contrast with many other festivals, the films submitted have been watched by the directors in charge,” Arriveé said. “With only one year’s experience with the festival, I was surprised to see how large and diverse it was. It was extremely well attended.” 

In this past year’s Oxford Film Festival, like most other festivals, the films were screened by interns, who then made decisions about which films were entered. The directors of the festival then looked at the films that were left. 

This year’s festival experience will be a bit different for Arriveé. Not only will he be absent from the jury this year, but he also will be competing in the same category as student filmmakers Jordan Berger and Houston Settle, to whom he gave some hands-off advising about their film “The Ninth Floor.” 

“I do consider Houston and Jordan as filmmakers, not just students,” Arriveé said. “They have a willingness to go out on a limb, not only with their equipment, but also their willingness to take trips to scout locations. They are acting like filmmakers outside of academia.”  

Arriveé said he was impressed with the work the students accomplished.  

“The cinematography has a far higher quality than the majority of independent European films entered in festivals,” he said. “There is reason it is in the film fest.” 

Arriveé stressed the importance of understanding that filmmaking is a collaborative project, even on student films. 

“Britt Allen was the cinematographer, and the amount of planning Britt put in the film deserves a huge amount of credit,” he said. “And there are others too.” 

Arriveé, who will continue to have his work cut out for him with the new film minor program at the university, already has plans for his next short to be set in the Texas hill country. 

He said it will be his last short before starting on a feature-length project.