POUGHKEEPSIE, NY – Since April, Vassar film students have seen their documentaries, works of fiction, and senior film projects fill the schedules of film festivals across the country. And often, they have scooped major awards.
“We have had some real success getting student films accepted into film festivals around the country, as well as getting the Vassar name out there into the film community,” said Geri Cosenza, the screening and festival supervisor for the department of film.
At the Columbia University National Undergraduate Film Festival (CUNUFF), held in April, Heartland, directed by recent graduate Brian Paccione (class of 2009), was recognized as one of the top 10 films screened at the festival. The Brick Wall Bubble Gum Girl, the senior film project directed by Ben Rutkowski, also class of 2009, received an honorable mention.
Paccione said it was wonderful that Heartland, a surrealism-inspired tale of two circus rejects looking for love and escape, was being recognized. It was a struggle, he said, for people to connect to such a personal project.
“I don’t think I made the film for an audience,” he said. “It was a personal, experimental sort of narrative. My grandmother is one of the main actresses in the film, and it’s more image-heavy, rather than a linear narrative.”
In the fall, Paccione will attend graduate school at Columbia for film, where he will work closely with an international film faculty.
“I can’t wait to be working with people from all over the world,” he continued. “You’re inevitably going to get all kinds of different stories – and I chose Columbia because they emphasize telling stories.”
And at April’s Ivy Film Festival at Brown University, New Uke City, directed by alumnus Clyde Folley, class of 2008, was awarded best documentary. Riding Tall: A Horse Connection, directed by Caitlin Mae Burke (class of 2008) was also screened at the Ivy, and at the International Family Film Festival Riding Tall was awarded Best Student Documentary.
More Vassar films will be screened through the summer, including at the Connecticut Film Festival, from June 2-7, in Danbury. In addition to Riding Tall, New Uke City, Heartland, and Brick Wall, the festival will include Black Ice, directed by Katie Hickman (class of 2008), Mi Bomba, Tu Bomba, directed by Jason Duffett (class of 2009), and Baller Education, directed by Eliot Weisberg (class of 2009). Vassar professor of film Ken Robinson will be in attendance for a panel discussion on selected dates.
And in its ninth year, the critically acclaimed deadCENTER independent film festival, held in Oklahoma City from June 10-14, will screen two collaborations between Paccione and Rutkowski, entitled Mudman and Pigman and Little Johnny.
This year’s successes follow those of long-graduated film students. The Common Sense Farm, a short documentary directed by Kathleen Russell, class of 2006, which was included in film festivals such as the Beverly Hills Shorts, Fort Lauderdale International (where it won second place in its division), the Maine International, Ivy, Connecticut, and the Tribeca Film Festival. A Breath of Life, directed by Anna Moot-Levin, class of 2007, was screened at the Westchester, Connecticut, Women’s International of South Florida, and received an honorable mention at Fort Lauderdale International.
The Film Department at Vassar College offers a bachelor’s degree, which unites film studies and filmmaking. The program encompasses major aspects of the discipline: the history and theory of cinema, dramatic writing, and film/video/digital production, within the framework of a liberal arts education.
Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.