Alumnus and Current Student Take Home Provincetown Film Festival Awards

June 29, 2018

Several students and alumni showcased their work at the Provincetown International Film Festival this month, a five-day festival “dedicated to showcasing new achievements in independent film and honoring the work of emerging as well as acclaimed directors, producers and actors.” The festival is committed to “serving communities who are often outside of the mainstream, in the margins, or otherwise underserved, but have a voice critical to the evolution of artistic expression,” and includes narrative, documentary, and animated films. 


Among those who screened films, alumnus Ísold Uggadóttir '11 and current student Chloe Sarbib took home awards this year. 


And Breathe Normally written and directed by Ísold Uggadóttir '11, which screened in the Festival’s Spotlight Selections won the HBO Audience Award / Best Narrative Feature. Set in Iceland, And Breathe Normally follows Lara, an airport officer, and Adja, a female refugee from Guinea-Bissau. “Despite cultural differences, the two women find a bond that rests on a moment when Lara is faced with a crucial decision,” according to the film’s description. Uggadóttir was awarded Sundance’s Directing Award in the World Cinema earlier this year and took home an Icelandic Academy Award for her work. And Breathe Normally is her debut feature-length.


Girl Friend, written and directed by current student Chloe Sarbib took home the Best Student Short Film at the festival. “When Sophie’s best friend starts dating someone new, she’ll do whatever it takes to make things go back to the way they were.” Girl Friend is Sarbib’s third feature script, and was her second-year student film at Columbia. In general, her work explores “strange, boundary-crossing female relationships, and the murkiness that can lurk within that kind of closeness,” according to an interview with School of the Arts. 


Among those who screened films were several other students and alumni.


Madeline Olnek '08 showcased her feature-length film, Wild Nights With Emily, during the festival’s Opening Night. Wild Nights With Emily is a comedy-drama about Emily Dickinson’s affair with her sister-in-law, Susan Dickinson. Olnek was given a Guggenheim Award to work on the film. She has also directed the films, Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same and The Foxy Merkins.


Night Comes On written and directed by Jordana Spiro '15 and produced by Alvaro Valente '14 played in the festival’s Narrative Features category. The film chronicles Angel, who’s left juvenile detention and is “thrown back onto the streets and into a world riddled with the demons of her past.” In creating this film, Spiro drew from her volunteer work with Peace4Kids, an organization that serves foster youth. Night Comes On is Spiro’s first feature directorial debut, and it took home the NEXT Innovator Award at Sundance earlier this year.


Blindspotting co-produced by alumnus Geoff Quan '08 also played in the Narrative Features category. "Collin must make it through his final days of probation for a chance at a new beginning. His childhood best friend, Miles, is always by his side, but when Collin witnesses a police shooting, their friendship is tested as they grapple with identity and their changed realities in the rapidly-gentrifying neighborhood they grew up in," according to the film's description. 


Miseducation of Cameron Post, involving the work of several alumni—Jessica Daniels Schwarz '07 as casting director, Markus Kirschner '09 as production designer, faculty member Andrew Hauser '12 as post supervisor, and Rob Cristiano '13 as co-producer—played in the Narrative Features category. In the film, "Cameron Post looks the part of a perfect high school girl. After she’s caught with another girl in the back seat of a car on prom night, Cameron is shipped off to a conversion therapy center that treats teens “struggling with same-sex attraction.”" The film was awarded the presitigious Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. 


In addition to feature-length films, students and alumni also showcased their short films. Current student Nona Schamus directed After Prom, in which “three best friends decide that the only equitable way to lose their virginity is to have a threesome the day after their high school prom.” Schamus’ past short films include Lug and Dinkytown Green.

Another short film, The Dare Project, directed by alumnus Adam Salky '08, written by alumnus David Brind '08, and produced by alumna Felecia Hunter '16, is the “fan-demanded sequel” to their 2005 short film, Dare. In The Dare Project, “Ben reconnects with high school crush Johnny at a swanky Los Angeles pool party.” Dare was Salky’s first-year MFA project where he was paired with David Brind, his then-classmate and Dare’s screenwriter. The film went to Sundance and, since 2005, has gone viral.


Lastly, Fevah, written and directed by alumnus Randall Dottin '03, is a short film that follows Indira, a “heartbroken single mom [who] is about to plunge into a new relationship when her child’s father returns with a secret.” Dottin’s past short films include, Lifted; his thesis film at Columbia, A-Alike, was broadcasted on HBO.