This year’s Capital City Film Festival captivates locals in a surprising location

Taylor Truszkowski, News Director

LANSING – Beginning with a red carpet premiere party and ending over a week later with an after-party, the Capital City Film Festival brought life, color and art of all kinds to the Old Frandor Sears Building.


Whether they came for the visual art, the music, the films or the peculiar location, artists and Lansing-area locals each found something to admire within this unassuming, abandoned department store. 


Festival attendee William Lawrence said he was drawn to the festival because of the unique location, and that his family used to shop at the Old Frandor Sears throughout his childhood.


“When I was younger I grew up in East Lansing,” Lawrence said. “I heard that this event was happening and I saw that it was at the old Sears and honestly that was the real selling point.”


The Old Frandor Sears Building is located behind SkyVue Apartments, a popular choice for off-campus living among Michigan State University students. The close proximity to the apartment building attracted a few of these students to the festival. 


Ayush Chinmay, a senior at MSU, is a SkyVue resident who became curious about the festival happening right behind his home. 


“I just kind of walked in to see what was going on,” Chinmay said. “There’s not a lot happening in Sears, of all the places.” 


“They’ve actually managed to put a lot of art in here,” said Chinmay, who was surprised by the sights inside this seemingly desolate place. 


These sights included various exhibits of visual art, including paintings, photographs, displays of vibrant color and portraits in moody black and white. Many of these pieces centered around a central theme of human experiences throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. 


“There’s a lot of art pieces that are very interesting in terms of they tell you what the person is going through,” Chinmay said. 


Chinmay said of his favorite exhibit, “It talks about how his mental health got worse throughout COVID and how he started coping with that through art.”


Xiaoli Wang, a graduate student at MSU, accompanied Chinmay to the festival. She also admired the visual art. 


Wang described her favorite exhibit as one that uses various colors to show a range of emotions. 


“In the glass style, not painting or pictures. That’s quite special,” Wang said.


The event also featured live painting. Visual artist Christina Castilla said she came to support her best friend who was live painting. 


“Her art has a message, all of it, whether it’s race, social equity, injustice, love—everything,” Castilla said.


Castilla, who is a painter, muralist and sculptor, said her art is more specifically focused on the theme of love. 


“All aspects, not just romantic, but self-love,” Castilla said. 


30-year-old Castilla said she has been creating art since she was a child, but has been serious about it for the past 15 years. Her work can be found on her Instagram


Despite the variety of visual art on display, it was not the sole focus of the Capital City Film Festival. The shining stars of the event were, of course, the featured films and filmmakers. 


These films were shown in a makeshift movie theater that was somehow both cozy and extravagant. In this dark but sparkling room, film posters lined the walls, volunteers sold drinks and popcorn and crowds gathered to watch the movies that were projected onto a large screen. It had all the makings of a movie theater with a homemade, personal touch. 


While filmmakers and visual artists received recognition for their work, aspiring artists of all kinds soaked in new inspiration. 


California-native brothers Logan Marroquin, Noah Heslinga and Jonas Heslinga were all in attendance for the festival as volunteers. 


Marroquin said they volunteered last year and enjoyed it so much that they decided to volunteer again this year. 


“It’s an awesome sense of community,” Marroquin said. 


Marroquin and Noah Heslinga are members of the band Ensurance Trap, along with drummer Bill Ogilvy, who was not present at the festival. Their experience as musicians has given them a unique perspective on art. 


“Visual art—I don’t have a knack for that—purely auditory. I write lyrics all day, saying the same things in different ways,” Marroquin said. “It’s necessary as an outlet, for sure.”


Marroquin said that musical talent must be in the brothers’ blood because their grandfather once opened for Van Halen in the 1970s. The brothers are attempting to continue this family legacy as their band moves through its beginning stages. 


“Only started playing six years ago, and sitting on a little over two albums worth of songs,” Marroquin said. “We only played a few shows, and our West Coast sound needs to find its ground among people who like to mosh and move around.”


Another volunteer and aspiring artist who felt inspired by the festival was Chris Pruett. 


Pruett said, “I came because I wound up in a wheelchair two years ago and I’ve been kind of dead in the water not doing nothing, and I was going through Facebook the other day and this came up. And then I saw the volunteer page, so I volunteered.”


Pruett finds joy in photography, which he practices with just his phone. 


“I was homeless seven years, and while I was traveling the city I would be taking pictures everywhere,” Pruett said. “I’ve got like 20,000 pictures on my Facebook page.”


Pruett surprised attendees of the festival by approaching them and asking to photograph their shoes. 


“I just got in here and I started seeing shoes. I just take pictures of them, and maybe next year there will be an exhibit of shoes,” Pruett said.


Pruett’s dream of a future shoe exhibit is just one example of how this event inspires creation in all who attend. Such is the magic of the Capital City Film Festival.