Tenth Annual M-A Student Film Festival Showcases Killer Productions

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On Friday, May 24, students showcased their videography, directing, acting, and editing talents in a variety of short films at the tenth annual M-A Student Film Festival in the PAC.

Entries came primarily from students enrolled in teacher John Giambruno’s Digital Filmmaking or Digital Communications class, though some were independent. A panel made up of teachers, alumni, and film industry professionals received the fourteen films in advance and voted on their favorites in four categories: Best Screenwriting, Best Editing, Best Cinematography, and Best in the Fest. A fifth category, Audience Favorite, which allowed audience members to vote through a ranked-choice system for their three favorites, will be announced on M-A Today! on Tuesday.

Giambruno said, “I see the movies as a teacher, and the panel sees them very differently. It’s really neat to see what they like. Even from the audience, there were some reactions I wasn’t expecting.”

The winner for Best in the Fest was Speak, directed by sophomore Naomi Wolosin, a student in Advanced Digital Filmmaking. The emotional film followed a mute girl who learns to express herself through ballet. The runner-up was Static.

“The idea came to me half a year ago and I took it from things that were in my life. I’m a dancer, and I thought it would be cool to talk about how dance is so expressive and you can do it without speaking any words,” said Wolosin.

Still from $.HEIST

Both Best Screenplay and Audience Favorite went to $.HEIST, by seniors Robbie Kuhnen and Abby Ko, where three drastically different co-conspirators teamed up to steal an expensive ring. The runner-up was Speak. Kuhnen said, “I really enjoyed the collaboration aspect of this project: brainstorming different types of shots for captivating cinematography, discussing what styles of editing best fit the film, and working hard to solve issues and turn in footage on time.”

Though the films varied greatly in subject matter and style, Giambruno says they still have commonalities. He said, “Every year’s got a different theme, and this year was definitely more violent.” This certainly rang true in pieces like sophomore Daniel Strebulaev’s James Bond: No Time To Die, the sequel to last year’s winner for Best Editing, which had multiple intense action sequences complete with special effects simulating shootouts and hand grenades. 

Further echoing Giambruno’s observation, both Neighbor by sophomores Noah Bertot and Cyrus Bitton—an anticipatory black-and-white detective story—and Kakologophobia by seniors TJ Kamaluldeen and Ben DoRio built up in suspense to homicidal conclusions. Similarly, The Last House Down the Road by senior Ismael C. Zarate; Missing by freshmen Ruby Gray, Sophie Miralles, and junior Tatiola Sobomehin; and Carbon Copy by freshman Sasha Zykova featured multiple mysterious violent ends to characters’ stories.

Still from Static

Static by senior Emma Kate Hamlin, a short where a girl seeks violent revenge on someone who hurt her friend, won Best Cinematography. The runner-up was Late, by junior Anna Lasky, which centers on a girl with ADHD who needs to rush to a job interview. 

Best Editing was awarded to Who Are They by senior Thea Shih, a film with a distinctive soundtrack, fast cuts between scenes, and a notable, satisfying ending that shocked the audience. The runner-up was a tie between Static and Neighbor.

About how the films have changed over the years, Giambruno said, “I felt like last year was all about exploring social dynamics and there were a lot of friendships being broken apart, and this year they were trying to explore messages with their films.” Messages indeed—in addition to the clear lean towards violence, entries alluded to themes of apocalypse, irrational fears, doll drama, and even the concept of a film festival itself.

Honorable mentions were films that panelists noticed something of significance in; these included James Bond: No Time To Die, Neighbor, Late, and The Light, a lush story by sophomore Casey St. Clair where the gloom of humanity’s end is eclipsed by the reuniting of two friends.

The festival, now in its tenth year, is above all else a celebration of the artistry of M-A students. Wolosin said, “My favorite part of making the film was being able to have so much creativity with it. Mr. G allows us to have so much freedom with what we create and we can basically do anything we want.”

Kuhnen said, “Digital Filmmaking is definitely an amazing class. I’ve been able to learn so many new techniques and tricks that I’ve utilized for projects in other classes.”

Looking forward, Giambruno wants to find more ways to celebrate this creativity. He said, “We’re talking about expanding the categories, maybe getting acting or audio in there.”

Allegra Hoddie is a junior in her first year of journalism. She enjoys covering current events and the arts. She also manages the Chronicle's social media accounts, drinks coffee, and copyedits.

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