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Dubai calling

The invitation arrived on a Friday: Would Rob Richter ’82, the producer of “New London Calling,” be available to present the 2010 short film at the 4th Gulf Film Festival in Dubai -- on the following Friday?

“It was surreal how quickly it all happened,” said Richter, the director of arts programming for Connecticut College. But by Sunday he had accepted the invitation, and on the following Wednesday, he boarded a plane to cross the Atlantic.

He missed the festival’s opening night party, but he was able to present the film at its two screenings and see many of the other films during the seven-day festival in the glitzy, cosmopolitan city on the Persian Gulf.

Richter said “New London Calling,” which follows dozens of children playing games throughout the city, seemed to resonate with an international audience that included festival-goers as well as the public. “There’s a universal aspect to the film,” he said. “There’s no dialogue — it’s just kids being kids.”

The 10-minute film, in its celebration of children playing outside, unsupervised and unencumbered by the rules of the adult world, laments the loss of spontaneous, creative play by today’s children. “Alla (Kovgan), the director, has gotten comments around the world, about kids at computers all the time, playing computer games, not going outside and playing and socializing,” Richter said.

In Dubai, Richter said, the audience laughed and responded during the screenings and applauded when he was introduced for a question-and-answer session. “It seemed to be overwhelmingly liked and appealing to people,” he said.

Kinodance Co., a Boston-based artist collaborative, made “New London Calling” as part of the College’s 2009-10 Dayton Artist-in-Residence Program and submitted it to festivals around the world, from Des Moines to Helsinki to Cairo. It won a Director’s Choice Selection at the Black Maria Film Festival in Newark, N.J., and a jury award at the Young About International Film Festival in Bologna, Italy.

“This was the first time I’d ever been to a film festival, and certainly my first time as part of one,” Richter said. “Most of the filmmakers were Arab. I was one of the few Americans. … There were definitely perspectives (in the other films) that we wouldn’t see here.

“I wasn’t sure how I’d be received, as an American,” he added. “I was struck by how hospitable everyone is, how welcoming.”

June 15, 2011

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