Sundeis Film Festival showcases student work
Ghosts, father-daughter camping trips, secret passageways between Brandeis and Chuck E. Cheese’s — all these and more were the subjects of the short films showcased at the Sundeis Film Festival on Thursday evening. The festival, hosted by Brandeis Television, featured 19 student pieces divided into four categories — “experimental,” “sci-fi,” “comedy” and “drama” — with awards distributed in each genre.
The star of the night was Jacob Kleinberg’s ’18 short film “Study Break” — awarded “Best Comedy” — which follows Kleinberg on an outrageous adventure as he climbs into the Goldfarb Library book lift and discovers it to be a portal connecting the library to a nearby Chuck E. Cheese’s. The film’s distinct voice — it’s portrayal of Chuck E. Cheese’s as a magical kingdom in the spirit of Narnia or Wonderland and the seriousness with which it takes its own absurdity — sets it apart from the festival’s other comedies.
Rachel Goldstein’s ’18 “11:30,” however, seemed a close runner-up to Kleinberg’s film. “11:30” — which the Sundeis program described as “inspired by a true story” — shows several minutes of comically cringeworthy party flirtation between Brandeis students Elana and Jacob (Elana Kellner ’19 and Kleinberg) as they spill drinks on one another, stutter through compliments, and attempt a kiss, all the while constantly being interrupted by loud music, a call from Jacob’s mother and a smoke alarm.
Five other comedy shorts were shown as well, including Amanda Huang’s ’19 and Marcus Lee’s ’19 “Leave It to the Business Major” — about a business major superhero who swoops into dramatic business crises and uses his undergraduate business skills to come up with disastrously poor solutions — and two separate parodies of the 1984 comedy-drama “Stranger Than Paradise.”
The award for best experimental film went to Goldstein for her film “Study Break,” which stars Nadisha Wickramaratne ’18 as herself as she stresses out in preparation for an exam, only to arrive in the classroom to find that the test has been postponed.
Other films in the “experimental” category included “Gold,” an exploration of dance and movement filmed by Julie Joseph ’18, “Tomorrow,” a film by Talia Sabato ’17 about the persistence of social and political problems over time, and an untitled work by Noah Harper ’19 that takes advantage of Adobe After Effects editing software to bring a series of paintings to life.
In Sabato’s “Ghost Story,” which received the sci-fi award, a young woman (Anisa Haque ’18) tells of an encounter with a ghost. Sabato combines visual techniques, like curling mist and dramatic changes in camera focus, with clever use of sound — the film is framed and punctuated by resounding drips from the faucet as Haque’s character sits motionless in a bathtub — to disquietingly successful effect.
The “Drama” section of the festival was by far the most diverse, featuring five films in three different languages and with a wide array of subject matters.
Sae Yong Lee’s ’17 “Ode to Hopowing” used cuts from Leslie Cheung’s “Happy Together,” along with Cantonese narration, to explore “Happy Together’s” protagonist Ho Po-wing. In Rachel Zhu’s ’18 “Everything is Fine,” a father uses his day with custody of his daughter to go on a poorly-planned camping trip. The film was deft and professional, with strong acting, beautiful camera work and poignant dialogue.
The award for best drama, however, went to Mica Unger ’17 for “You Should Have Told Me,” a dialogue-rich performance about a college senior who invites her roommate/romantic partner to her parents’ house for a brunch at which she comes out to her mother and father as gay. The film shone with casual but emotionally laden dialogue and uncomfortably real characters, as well as subtle performances by its stars Goldstein and Joanna Murphy ’17.
The festival featured works by 18 different student filmmakers and took place in the Wasserman Cinematheque. The event’s judges were Profs. Alice Kelikian (HIST), Mark Dellelo (FILM) and Daniel Mooney (FILM).
—Editor’s Note: Ydalia Colon ’19 had a piece shown in the Sundeis Film Festival and is a photographer for the Justice.