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Davis, California

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

UC Davis Film Fest highlights student talent while bringing community together

The two-night event was back in person this year after being celebrated virtually for two years


By CLARA FISCHER — arts@theaggie.org


On May 16 and 17, Varsity Theater held the annual UC Davis Film Fest. Back in person for the first time since the start of the pandemic, the event showcased works under eight minutes that were directed, filmed and edited by undergraduates, graduate students and alumni. 

The first night featured 16 short films, while the second saw 10 showings. Ranging from experimental cinema to stop motion to documentary-style films, the selection of genres was eclectic and widespread. This was fitting, given the variety of students that occupy the Department of Cinema and Digital Media Department at UC Davis.  

A plethora of related artistic departments, including Art Studio, Art and Art History, Cinema and Digital Media, Design, Music as well as Theatre and Dance, are also involved. The incorporation of various departments demonstrates all of the best parts of the fine arts — a sector that is truly enriched by collaboration in a way that few others are.  

The energy in the theater was high as the community gathered to watch the selected works. The excitement reflected the love that the Davis community feels for the arts, whether from well-established artists or, as in this case, passionate students who are just starting out. 

For someone who doesn’t consider themselves an expert in cinematography, the selection of films was perfectly balanced: innovative and intriguing without being too experimental or trite. 

One of the crowd’s favorites, “Perspective,” directed by students Milou Korthouwer and Dominic Dal Porto, featured a clever, Matrix-esque storyline that started as a humorous depiction of the average college student’s day, which then devolved into something deeper and more philosophically provoking. This was accomplished with the help of several kinds of visual effects, including glitches and play with the picture’s saturation level. 

Seeing this kind of visual manipulation on the screen was a testament to the skills that students of these various departments have obtained during their time at UC Davis and emphasized the importance of the Film Fest’s mission  “[to showcase] the variety of student talent through animation, documentary, narrative shorts, and experimental films,” according to the event’s program.

Other standouts included “unconditional.,” directed by students Jada Simone Hayes and “Welcome to Sunnyvale,” directed by Miranda Comstock and Sarah Sy. Both of these shorts were recognized in the awards ceremony at the second night’s conclusion, and the directors went home with both a titular win and a cash prize. 

Following the conclusion of the awards ceremony on the second night, the audience gradually wandered out and eventually ended up congregating outside to mingle and talk amongst themselves; filmmakers, family, friends and plain old lovers of the arts included. 

This impromptu gathering after such a long period of virtual meetings and anxiety around social gatherings reminded me of just how much we were missing out on and how crucial the arts are as a facilitator of our culture. The coordinators of the event acknowledged this and described the UC Davis Film Fest as “a vibrant supporter of voices that do not often get the chance to be heard” — which is just about as accurate of a description of the festival’s significance as anyone can give. 


Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that “Welcome to Sunnyvale” was directed by Bea Alexa Rondon. The article has been corrected to state that the film was directed by Miranda Comstock and Sarah Sy. 


Written by: Clara Fischer — arts@theaggie.org



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