Best of Notre Dame Student Film Festival 2022 // The Observer

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IMAGE SOURCES: Courtesy of Ted Mandell and the FTT Program

Notre Dame film, television and theater students put Sundance to shame with the 33rd annual Notre Dame Student Film Festival last weekend. With a diverse body of work – ranging from documentaries to dramatic shorts – this showcase demonstrates the creativity and spirit of student Notre Dame body. Working within the confines of the semester, the FTT majors exceeded expectations and wowed the audience with “The Ismailzais.” All of the movies this year were fantastic – we just don’t have the space to see them all again. Congratulations to the amazing budding filmmakers at Notre Dame!

IMAGE SOURCES: Courtesy of Ted Mandell and the FTT Program

Checkout (Chase Cummings, Ryan Lanser, John Adkins)

By Kate Casper, screenwriter

Starring Jack Brown, this short film follows a struggling 20-something facing eviction by the end of the day. He finds the eviction notice taped to his front door. Next, an empty crate at his feet — the “crate”. Each time he puts an item in the box, he gets paper money in return. However, he ends up breaking the box when he attempts to fit his office chair to the tiny cardboard constraints. In an effort to repair the crate (and thus keep his house), he tapes the box and attempts to put another item in it, which results in a shocking and hilarious twist. The shots were crisp and clear, while the sound effects and music added a comedic touch. All in all, “Cash Box” was a great film to kick off the festival, as it was clean and funny.

IMAGE SOURCES: Courtesy of Ted Mandell and the FTT Program

Eddy’s Garden (Grant DelVecchio, Yiyi Niu, Litchfield Ajavon)

By Hayden Kirwan, screenwriter

Among the fast food chains, retail stores and apartments on Eddy Street, a lonely house still exists. “Garden of Eddy” tells the story of its longtime resident, Johnnie Johnson, who refused to sell the house to the university in 2007. The documentary contains excellent sound editing and camera work, but what makes it makes it really successful is to give the audience some insight. in his subject. Directors Grant DelVecchio, Yiyi Niu and Litchfield Ajavon trade quick cuts for lengthy scenes of daily life. Moments of Johnson doing yard work or a tour of his house are effectively interspersed with his thoughts on Eddy Street. These interview clips contain ideas about gentrification and the destruction of the local environment. This relevant and essential perspective on an essential part of the life of Notre-Dame makes this short film one of the highlights of the festival. “Garden of Eddy” is a fitting reminder for all of us to think about the larger South Bend community we live in and the impact of college.

IMAGE SOURCES: Courtesy of Ted Mandell and the FTT Program

Cyrus (Ivan Skvaril, Ted Nagy)

By Kate Casper, screenwriter

The documentary short, “Cyrus,” features Cyrus Sutton, a former professional surfer in search of adventure, on his latest jaunt: a return to earth and a more natural life off the grid in Washington State. The film follows him on his daily exploits – from feeding his pigs leftovers from local restaurants to finding mushrooms to cook for dinner. Sutton is looking for something bigger in life — a “simpler” life — but he notes that “simple” doesn’t always mean “easy.” His new lifestyle turns out to be the opposite of easy, which provides a commentary on how we all benefit from systems that prioritize convenience over ethics or environmental awareness. The walking shots that follow Cyrus and his friends throughout the film add an intimate touch to the production involving the viewer in the larger narrative of the rugged, low-impact lifestyle.

IMAGE SOURCES: Courtesy of Ted Mandell and the FTT Program

hang the man (John Adkin)

By Claire Lyons, Acting Stage Editor

This moving student film follows an actor with – get it – stage fright. Actor Aidan Gordley is convincingly freaking out in the waiting room for an audition. In an attempt to help, co-star Isa Ruiz plays hangman to distract him from his pre-audition nervousness. Although it primarily deals with the worries of FTT majors, Hang Man touches on feelings that are universal for any student: the fear of not being good enough. Hang Man argues that we can achieve success – we can overcome our fears – through vulnerability and connection with others. With an expertly selected soundtrack and a montage of the main character preparing for the audition, Hang Man solidifies as a teardrop.

IMAGE SOURCES: Courtesy of Ted Mandell and the FTT Program

Everyone can win (Scott Kiley, Colin Campbell)

By Natalie Allton, screenwriter

Student films are at their best when there is obvious passion and fun in creating them and “Anyone Can Win” has both in spades. The star, Jacob Neisewander, plays his part with all the comedic timing and charm of a classic 80s film (think Matthew Broderick and John Cusack) – close-ups of his expressions were enough on their own to make audiences laugh . Her performance, combined with a delightfully melodramatic soundtrack and well-timed cuts, gives the film such a fun and lighthearted tone that the whole theater was having a great time. The narrative structure, however, makes this movie definitely worth watching. The filmmakers perfectly set up and subvert audience expectations; there’s a kind of gripping confusion throughout most of the film, as the audience watches the protagonist cut up a family meatloaf recipe and (hilariously) gaze with tear-filled eyes at a family portrait. Just as the viewer wonders where the plot is going, the narrative is gloriously paid off in a single shot that elicited explosive reactions from across the theater. Spoiler-free – Scott Kiley and Colin Campbell have created a delicious nugget of comedy and charisma that I will think about for a long time.

IMAGE SOURCES: Courtesy of Ted Mandell and the FTT Program

Save Sister Cindy (Joel Mandell, Sam Eppich)

By Natalie Allton, screenwriter

In the modern, Gen Z-influenced culture of internet fame and post-irony, ideas can reach a wide audience without being satirical or serious. Enter Sister Cindy, an evangelical Christian preacher who has been trying to spread her message for over 30 years and recently found herself the victim of TikTok virality. His “slut-shaming” message, summed up succinctly by his motto, “Ho No Mo”, is brazen, controversial and hugely popular – and brilliantly documented by Joel Mandell and Sam Eppich, whose combination of interviews, footage from archives and TikToks serves to paint a complex portrait of a woman passionate about her work, for better or for worse. “Saving Sister Cindy” is a particular, layered examination of virality, irony, and how social media can hatch the most unexpected celebrities. My only complaint: it must be long.

IMAGE SOURCES: Courtesy of Ted Mandell and the FTT Program

*People’s Choice Award Winner*

The Ismailzais (Peter Nichols, Nate Robards)

By Claire Lyons, Acting Stage Editor

Shortly before the Taliban took control of Kabul in August 2021, Ismailzais moved to the United States as Afghan refugees. This short film documents the family’s adjustment to their new life in Austin, Texas – following Mr. Fazal Ismailzai to the grocery store, the kids to school, and the family’s interactions in their small apartment. Coupled with alarmist reporting on immigration, the documentary proves that immigrants – the Ismailzais – are anything but scary. Mr. Ismailzai carries his children’s oversized backpacks on the 1-mile walk to their school and picks up bananas at Wal-Mart because his children love them. The children of Ismailzai are doing their best in school despite the language barrier. The children play and hug in the parking lot of their apartment complex while a choir of their classmates sings the national anthem in the background. The short documentary tenderly captures how much the Ismailzai family loves each other. Ultimately, “The Ismailzais” goes beyond a student film; it is a testament to the resilience and humanity of the refugees.

IMAGE SOURCES: Courtesy of Ted Mandell and the FTT Program

puppy love (Lizzie Todd, Peter Nichols)

By Kate Casper, screenwriter

“Puppy Love” is a heartfelt short film that follows a middle schooler on a mission to win over his crush by gifting him an arts and crafts project, an origami flower. The film opens with the boy, played by JD Carney, a recent Notre Dame graduate, stumbling down the basement steps of a college party, abandoning the distant echo of rowdy revelers, to intense classical music that fades. After he finishes his drink, he gets a whiff of inspiration to cut out a picture from a puppy calendar and fold it into a paper flower under the warm glow of his desk lamp. However, he is unable to give his flower to his crush. The intensity of the music, lighting, and camera movement was well executed, especially the smooth panning through the various scenes. Also, the narrative was well presented, especially with the lack of dialogue combined with the classic instrumentals. Overall, this sweet short, inspired by the real-life flirting strategy of co-director Lizzie Todd’s friend, was well-shot and funny, perfectly encapsulating the all-too-relatable college experience of attending a party in the hope of charming a love. interest.

Tags: 33rd edition, Documentary, FTT Film festival, Notre Dame Film Festival, Notre Dame Student Film Festival, short film, student film.

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