FTT department hosts 32nd annual Notre Dame Student Film Festival
Claire Reid | Thursday, April 29, 2021
The Department of Film, Television and Theatre (FTT) will host the 32nd Annual Notre Dame Student Film Festival this weekend in the Debartolo Performing Arts Center’s Browning Cinema. Festival screenings will take place from Thursday to Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and on Sunday at 7:00 p.m. A livestream of Sunday’s show will also be available on the FTT YouTube channel.
This year’s festival — titled Quarantined! — features student films largely shot amidst the tight restrictions of the fall 2020 semester. FTT professor Ted Mandell founded the Student Film Festival in 1990 and has been in charge of it ever since. He described the theme of the festival.
“This year’s festival is a unique time capsule of the past year from a student’s perspective,” Mandell said. “From having to make films at times with their phones, at home, with their family members as actors to coming back to campus and dealing with isolation and social distancing restrictions, it’s truly a testament to the students’ creativity and perseverance.”
Many of the student films address issues related to COVID-19. Junior FTT major Grace Akin was inspired to create her documentary film, “Alone Together,” after reading a disturbing statistic about the impact of COVID restrictions on the wellbeing of Notre Dame students.
“There was a survey that came out that all the students answered and they included that statistic that like 50% of students were in severe emotional distress,” Akin said. “So we wanted to explore that and hear from people about their experiences.”
Akin posted to her Instagram story in order to find students to interview for the documentary which she and a classmate originally created for Professor Mandell’s Documentary Production course.
“I actually had so many people reach out that I couldn’t interview them all,” Akin said.
She ended up focusing on the stories of three students, all of whom remained anonymous due to the personal nature of the topics they spoke about. Akin said the best part of making the film was having such meaningful conversations with these interviewees.
“We kept all of our participants anonymous, but they still saw my face and I saw their face,” Akin said. “So the fact that they were willing to open up to me about such personal issues, I felt very honored and privileged to be able to hear their stories.”
Akin added that she felt like the interview process made her a better person.
“I think it’s so rare that we have a really vulnerable, honest conversation with someone,” she said. “I think it’s something our society lacks and is really important which is kind of what we tried to capture with the film.”
Akin hopes that her film will be relatable to other students dealing with mental health struggles and that it will open up conversations about mental health on campus.
Scott Kiley, a fifth-year senior and mechanical engineering and FTT double major, also submitted his film from the Documentary Production course to the festival. However, Kiley’s film, “Scott — no relation,” explores a much more lighthearted topic.
“It’s about the Stand Up Club trying to do stand up during COVID,” Kiley explained. “It’s kind of funny because it’s not a good environment for comedy when everyone’s in masks and they’re all spaced apart.”
Kiley, who serves as president of the Stand Up Club explained that, normally, he would not want to make a film about himself, but due to this year’s travel restrictions, he had to “be the star of [his] own documentary.”
The film follows the Stand Up Club, which only had three members at the beginning of the academic year, as they rebuild, eventually acquiring fifteen members amidst the pandemic. Kiley even consulted a few Notre Dame graduates who work as professional stand up comedians and included interviews with some of them in the film.
Kiley’s goal for the film was simple — he wanted to make people laugh.
For senior Kilian Vidourek, another student filmmaker featured in the festival, the goal of his film, “21. across,” is not as clear-cut.
“I hope they take it for exactly what it is,” Vidourek said. “It’s the kind of film you can hold in the palm of your hand … I’m not trying to say anything smarter or more artistic than what it actually is; it’s just nine minutes and 17 seconds of this weird world I constructed.”
Vidourek explained the film tells the story of a man on a farm who witnesses the world seem to unravel in a bizarre way as he sees his surroundings transform into a sort-of crossword puzzle with clues up, down and across.
The film stars Vidourek’s dad who had never acted before. But Vidourek said he was a natural and that working with him was the best part of creating the film.
Vidourek, a film and music major who hopes to go into the music industry, also wrote the score for the film. In fact, it was music that inspired the film.
“I was writing a song last semester, and I was trying to use banjo and synthesizer,” Vidourek recalled. “I thought ‘Okay, this sounds kind of weird, wouldn’t it be cool if I made a film … that had a really electronic and weird soundtrack.’ So it was the music first and then the film.”