The University Life Events Council showcased eight unique student filmmakers last night at their CU Film Showcase.

The experience of going to an honest-to-goodness movie theater is utterly immersive. The blinking lights of the lobby assault your eyes before the theater plunges you into blackness; the smell of popcorn seems to coat your nostrils in artificial butter slime until it’s all you can smell for days after you leave; even the muted mutterings of patrons determined not to disturbed the carefully curated cinematic sonic softness seem deafening against the expectation of total silence. 

The CU Film Showcase was online.

It isn’t the University Life Events Council’s fault I didn’t read my ticket carefully, despite its bolded proclamation that the event would be VIRTUAL. Still, I would be lying if I said I didn’t start off the night a shade disappointed.

But man, if this wasn’t the next best thing.

When I clicked the link on my (digital) ticket, I expected to enter a blank Zoom waiting room. Instead, I found myself in a computerized cinema, complete with box office images and non-diegetic popcorn sound effects. It was Film Forum from the comfort of your dorm room.

The event began with a warm welcome from University Life Event Council Film Chair Lily Imai (CC ‘24), some Hollywood trivia, and our first student film.

Arlene Schulman (JRN ‘22) kicked off the night with the documentary short Addiction. Created for a project in her documentary filmmaking course, the film follows Schulman’s next-door neighbor Julio and his obsessive (or merely enthusiastic) mission to collect as many books as possible. Informative, entertaining, and ever-so-slightly exhibitionist (70,000 books might be a few too many,) Addiction set the tone for a night of strange and zany art.

That wasn’t the only documentary of the night. Also part of the documentary film program in the Graduate School of Journalism, Shakti Langlois-Ortega (JRN ‘23) showcased How A Brooklyn Sneaker Head Turned Her Passion Into A Business. This film tells the story of Cheryl, an enthusiast-turned-entrepreneur who opened a successful business cleaning and restoring sneakers for those with a taste for tasteful footwear. Cheryl’s cheery tone and Langlois-Ortega’s clean style made the documentary stand out as a stark bright mark on the night’s lineup.

Though not a documentary, Angie written and directed by Katie Mae Peters (GS ‘23) is a true crime retelling of a grisly murder. It is part of a larger project chronicling the victim’s best friend and her journey to discover the true identity of the murderer. Though it is easy to get caught up in the spectacle of murder and undercover amateur detective work, the filmmaker also cautions the viewer not to forget the system that puts women like Angie in danger in the first place.

Thankfully not based on a true story, Creepers directed by Keegan Hakim (GS ‘23) was nonetheless another thrilling horror submission about a cursed amulet, a birthday betrayal, and a naked dead man. The introduction, shot on location inside one of NYC’s many dingy Subway stations, showcased how the time and budget constraints that haunt student film productions can actually force uniquely creative finished products. What atmosphere better breeds unease than a sealed underground tunnel dripping rain water through cracked concrete? 

Omer Ben-David (SOA ‘22) also showcased how constraints can lead to a beautiful finished project with Returning to Theatres. Originally created as a promotion for the first post COVID-19 film festival in Tel Aviv, Returning to Theatres was sponsored by Samsung. As a result, the money-bags insisted that the entire project be filmed on a Samsung Galaxy S-21 cell phone (available in stores near you!) Without a proper camera, Ben-David struggled to create the right lighting conditions to properly illuminate the cast. The solution: wash them in a glow of light from the film projector inside the theater where the film is set. This necessity for ingenuity created one of the most visually arresting shots of the showcase, as the actors go from near darkness to bathed in saturated glow.

One film did not have such lighting constraints, but still had its own unique struggles as the only animated film of the night. Dante’s Memory created by Theo Taplitz (CC ‘25) is inspired by that most core of Columbia’s curriculum: Dante’s Inferno. This film, though, is of a reasonable length and is actually quite interesting! (Sorry, Dante.) It follows one damned soul as it walks in Hell, shading between torment and blissful escape through the memories of its former life among the living. The animated style allows for seamless transitions as the soul seems to walk not from one point to another in Hell, but in place as its environment morphs from dead to alive around it.

Not to let Taplitz have all the fun adapting classics, Rishi Chhapolia (CC ‘22) created Faust’s Facade based on Goethe’s tragedy of the same name. Chhapolia seemed quite inclined to creative liberties as he took a meta-cinematic take on the stage play, though. Faust’s Facade follows a group of students filming an adaptation of Goethe for the screen. Hijynx quickly ensues when the actor playing Mephistopheles goes method and devilishly terrorizes the set. This earnest absurdity made Faust’s Facade my personal favorite flick of the night, though my chuckles may not have been entirely appropriate given the film’s overall tone.

The final slot of the event went to Arthur Gay (SOA ‘22) and his atmospheric meditation on transience A Shared Moment of Loneliness. The film follows an unnamed woman traveling on unnamed business and calling an unnamed number from her motel phone. Filmed on location at the named Hudson Plaza Motel, special attention was clearly paid to utilizing the environment to the film’s advantage as multiple shots lingered through windows, over balconies, and behind mirrors.

After the showcase, panelists and viewers alike got the chance to reconvene in a separate meeting room decorated like a hotel bar. We discussed creative processes (from frantic writing sessions and all night filming to carefully considered projects spanning many months,) future collaborations (social media handles eagerly shared through the chat function,) and even favorite movies (1985’s Clue, in case anyone was wondering.) By the time we all signed off, I had almost forgotten I wouldn’t have to wash the movie theater butter out from under my fingernails. 

Interested in more University Life Events Council affairs? Check out their website for weekly events from Zumba, to Drag Bingo, to conversations with George Takei.

movies via bwarchives