Five College Film Festival exhibits talent


Drizzling rain and cold breezes ushered students, faculty and parents into Gamble Auditorium on Friday night for the 24th annual Five College Film Festival. The program consisted of 22 films, all made entirely by students in the community. As attendees arrived, jurors and volunteers had to hurry to print additional voting ballots. “I printed 125 programs and I had to go back and print 50 more,” said Bernadine Mellis, professor of digital media and production at Mount Holyoke and Smith. “It’s Mount Holyoke, it’s hard to get to [and] it’s raining, but there wasn’t an empty seat in the house. It was amazing.”

“[The Five College Film Festival] unites talent from all five campuses in a diverse and artistic showcase,” said Hudson Smith, a UMass Amherst student and one of the festival’s jurors. “Each campus has its own personality.” Six of the 22 films were submitted by Smith students and five by Mount Holyoke students, which is unusual for the festival. In the past, programs have been dominated by Hampshire and Amherst students. This year, submissions poured in from all five colleges.

The films ranged from 35 seconds to 21 minutes. Many spoke to social issues and existential anxiety while others provided a lighthearted moment to breathe. “How to Put Everything in Its Right Place” by Jared G Pearson of UMass, told the story of an orphaned boy being tossed about in and finally out of the foster care system, all the while dreaming of the stars. 

Animation, particularly stop-motion, was especially popular this year. The program’s final film, “AMPLIFICATION” (submitted by Kyra Kabler of Hampshire),  was entirely animated with clay and other mixed media. 

Found footage was another popular style. “Fair &,” submitted by Henna Joshi ’18, fractured and replayed footage of beauty product ads, all of which equated whiteness to true beauty and encouraged women with darker complexions to become lighter. The program’s two longest films, “Being Jezebel” (submitted by Auralynn Rosario of Smith) and “SPEAK UP: Black Athletes and Resistance” (submitted by Che Williams of Hampshire), both explore underrepresented struggles of people of color, particularly black people, to be respected in society.

“Being Jezebel” focused on black women in the sex work industry, the harmful stereotype of the “lascivious black woman” and its roots in slavery practices. The film was the biggest winner of the night, earning Smith’s Best of Campus award as well as being selected as the Audience Favorite. “I’m really excited about the film that was chosen,” Mellis said about the Audience Favorite award. “It’s a powerful, meaningful film about an important, compelling and under-explored topic.” 

Mount Holyoke’s Best of Campus award went to “This is Not About Aliens,” submitted by Cass Fernandez-Dieguez ’19. The film starred Abby Carroll ’19 as Finn, a human stranded in a bizarre alien simulation, and Grace Brunson ’19 as a mysterious alien woman who seems to be communicating with the human protagonist through a distorted video feed. Featuring a clever post-credits scene in which the audience is put into Finn’s shoes, “This is Not About Aliens” is both unsettling and funny.

“Participating in the festival was one of the best experiences I’ve had,” said Amanda Clark-Martin FP, the festival’s student director. “I’ve learned so much from the journey and organizing process. I’m beyond impressed by the amount of talent that is here between the five colleges and only disappointed that we couldn’t showcase more of it.”