'Ayaan' by Columbia Alumnae has World Premiere

Felix van Kann
June 22, 2020

Ayaan, a short film written and directed by alumna Alies Sluiter '20, produced by alumna Meng Xiong '19, and associate produced by alumna Federica Belletti '18, is currently screening at two of Australia’s biggest film festivals. It had its world premiere at the Sydney Film Festival where it was nominated for the Dendy Live Action Short Award. The film will also screen at the St Kilda Short Film Festival where it also received nominations for Best Short Film and Best Actor for Trevor Jamieson. Both festivals are Academy Award accredited.

In Ayaan, an escaped asylum seeker and her baby encounter an Aboriginal man on a rural Australian beach and must decide whether to trust him or attempt the 400 kilometre journey to the nearest city, on foot and alone. The short film is 17 minutes long.

Alies Sluiter is a storyteller with a passion for social-justice and activism. Her work has been recognized through individual awards including the General John Monash Scholarship, the Dame Joan Sutherland Award and a Fuse Presents SXSW mentorship. Her thesis film Ayaan was awarded the Adrienne Shelly Best Female Director Award, Leone Family Film Production Award, the IFP Audience Award, a Panavision Student Grant Sponsorship and was a 2018 Screencraft Film Fund semifinalist. Also an Australian Academy Award nominated composer, Alies has performed worldwide with eminent artists including Nitin Sawhney, Hugh Jackman, Sylvie Guillem and Akram Khan. The production Zero Degrees, musically directed by Sluiter, received the Helpmann Award (Australia) and nominations for the Laurence Olivier Award, Critics Circle Award and the Time Out Award (UK).

Meng Xiong is a Chinese writer and producer. She has written and produced short films in China, the US, and Australia. Xiong is the recipient of Leone Family Film Grant, Panavision Production Sponsorship, and 3PAS Studios Award for Excellence in Producing and IFP Audience Award at CUFF 2019. Xiong holds bachelor's degrees of Cinema and Communication Studies from the University of Iowa. During her graduate studies at Columbia, she taught film studies as an assistant. She is currently working for the Hamptons International Film Festival.

Federica Belletti is a filmmaker based in New York. She produced six shorts and interned for Gamechanger Films, The Austin Film Festival and Maven Pictures. In 2017, she was awarded the Arthur Krim Memorial Award and was a finalist of the Sundance Producing Lab.

Sydney Film Festival takes place at the State Theatre, as well as cinemas in the CBD, Newtown, Cremorne, Western Sydney and more, screening more than 200 films you won’t usually find in the multiplex. 12 films are selected for the Official Competition, which celebrates “courageous, audacious and cutting-edge” cinema with a $60,000 cash prize. Sydney Film Festival also presents seven other cash awards over the course of the festival.

The St Kilda Film Festival awards recognize the best of Australia's Top 100 Short Films. Proudly presented and produced by the City of Port Phillip, the Festival supports the Australian film industry by turning the spotlight on exceptional films by both emerging talent and short works by accomplished industry professionals. Due to government social distancing restrictions in place to limit the spread of COVID-19, the 2020 St Kilda Film Festival will be presented online from 12 to 20 June. Accredited by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the St Kilda Film Festival is an Academy Awards® qualifying event. Award-winning films from the Festival are eligible for consideration in the Short Film Awards and Documentary Short sections of the Oscars®.

Woman in desert looking at a traffic sign indicating ostrich pass.