Just last week, Penn’s greatest cinematic creators gathered at the annual Penn Student Film Festival. The three-day festival, sponsored by Penn College Houses & Academic Services, provides students with the chance to have their work seen by an audience—and to compete for four cash prizes.

The festival began on Monday, when 10 out of the 21 submitted films were screened in Gregory College House. After the second day of screenings, the festival’s judges selected 8 finalists to be featured in Wednesday’s final round at New College House.

The winning film was ei: emotional intelligence, by Dennis Kim (C’21). This was hardly the start of the road for Dennis, who’s film was selected as Vimeo’s Short of the Week just this past August, has been featured in at least four professional film festivals, and has already racked up over 800,000 views on YouTube. It’s difficult to pinpoint what stands out the most about Dennis’ short. While the animation is breathtakingly gorgeous, the story, which follows two robots who experience deep and human–like love as their world threatens to crumble around them, is poignant in all of the right ways.

The second–place winner was Street videographer Emily Hason’s (C’18) romantic short film Blinded, created initially for Kinoki’s 48 Hour Film Challenge. With excellent camera work and editing, the film gives us a short and sweet scene that might not be exactly what it first seems.

The third place prize went to Justin Lee (C’18), for "The Seagull," a beautifully narrated short about a little stuffed dog who leaves his only friend behind to explore the world. In doing so, he experiences some of life’s highest highs and lowest lows, ultimately finding a new sense of peace and companionship. Justin, who participated in the festival last year but didn’t place, credits the Penn filmmaking community with his growth as a creator. “I remember how restricting it was making films by myself freshman year,” he recalls. “The Penn filmmaking community is the most collaborative group of people at Penn I know of.”

Because of this collaborative spirit, artists often find themselves acting in or helping out with their peers’ films. Student composer Nicholas Escobar (C’18), composed original music for both Dennis’ and Justin’s short films. “When a director explains to me the feeling that they want in their film”, explains Nicholas, “what I’ll do is I’ll send them just an initial three, four minutes of piano, or music that I create electronically, and I’ll ask them if they feel like it fits the tone.” While Nicholas states that Dennis ended up using the initial composition he sent him last spring, Justin’s piece, inspired by the soundtrack of the movie Her, took a little bit more back and forth.

Filmmaking is a convenient way for me to express ideas that I can’t put to words. I’m not the best writer, but I find that visually I can often get across everything I’d like to.

The Penn filmmaking community is the most collaborative group of people at Penn I know of. I remember how restricting it was making films by myself freshman year, and one of the best aspects of my time at Penn has been slowly discovering the incredibly active and generous community of filmmakers right here on campus. I wouldn’t have been able to do half the things I’ve done without all these talented and passionate people, and it’s been such a joy watching it grow in the way it has just in the last 3 years.


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