Columbia Filmmakers Screen at Tribeca Film Festival 2023; Two Take Home Awards

Angeline Dimambro
June 15, 2023

Two films from Columbia filmmakers took home honors at the 2023 Tribeca Film Festival. They are: Smoking Tigers and Rule of Two Walls.

“We take great pride in recognizing this year’s collection of diverse, trailblazing works, and creators,” said Cara Cusumano, Festival Director and Vice President of Programming. “Today’s honorees are a compelling testament that storytelling across genres and platforms is on a vibrant and inspiring trajectory.”

Smoking Tigers, written and directed by So Young Shelly Yo '18, is set in early-2000s SoCal and follows a Korean-American girl as she struggles to find herself. The film took home several prizes, including Best Screenplay in a US Narrative Feature, Best Performance in a U.S. Narrative Feature (Ji-Young Yoo), and a Special Jury Mention for the Nora Ephron Award. “A film with an intimate power, captivating performances and striking cinematography,” stated the jury, “this film tenderly explores the complexity of adolescence, the immigrant experience, being a child of divorce and how familial trauma can impact romantic relationships."

David Gutnik ’12 also received a Special Jury Mention in the festival’s Documentary Competition for his work on Rule of Two Walls. The film is a raw, atmospheric portrait of today’s Ukraine through the lens of the artists who have chosen to stay. The film’s subjects are Gutnik’s intimate collaborators in exploring what it means to navigate the jarring rhythms and surreal juxtapositions of life under the shadow of war. “For embedding us with a group of artists who refused to be stripped of their heritage and cultural expression, we would like to give a special jury mention for human rights and artistic expression to Rule of Two Walls,” stated the jury.

Click here to find a complete list of winners.

Original: June 1, 2023

The Tribeca Film Festival, which will take place June 7-18, 2023, will feature several films from Columbia alumni and faculty.

For more than two decades the Tribeca Film Festival has been a destination for new, groundbreaking storytelling from established and emerging artists. With strong roots in independent film, Tribeca is a platform for creative expression and immersive entertainment that champions emerging and established voices, discovers award-winning filmmakers and creators, curates innovative experiences, and introduces new technology and ideas through premieres, exhibitions, talks, and live performances. This year marks the 22nd edition of the festival.

“Tribeca is a tentpole of entertainment and culture in New York City, and we’re looking forward to welcoming back artists of all backgrounds and mediums to celebrate the power of storytelling,” said Tribeca Co-Founder and CEO Jane Rosenthal via press release.

A full list of the projects from Columbia filmmakers participating in Tribeca 2023 can be found below.

US Narrative Competition

This section features extraordinary world premieres by breakout independent voices from around the country.

Somewhere Quiet

Executive Produced by Assistant Professor Mynette Louie

In this horror-thriller, Meg (Jennifer Kim) is trying to readjust to normal life after recently being involved in a heinous abduction. To recenter herself, she takes a trip upstate with her husband Scott (Kentucker Audley) to stay at his wealthy family’s countryside compound. An excursion like this offers the kind of peace that Meg deserves to regain her sense of normalcy—but those plans get swiftly disrupted when Scott’s upper-class cousin Madeline (Marin Ireland) arrives unannounced. Madeline’s insertion into their activities causes Meg’s recent traumatic memories to resurface through eerie hallucinations and nightmares. While Scott tries to attend to the emotionally fraught Meg, she begins to clash with Madeline’s aristocratic personality. The conflict brings out passive-aggressive behavior that makes Meg question her sanity while also coming to terms with the truth behind her kidnapping.

Still from 'Smoking Tigers'

Smoking Tigers

Written and Directed by So Young Shelly Yo '18

Set in early-2000s SoCal, Smoking Tigers follows a Korean-American girl as she struggles to find herself. Caught between supporting both parents in their work while longing for their old life together and burdened by the responsibility of a younger sibling, few things seem to be falling into place. Upon starting a new year of high school among wealthy elites, she also has to balance the duality of her new friends and low-income reality. Smoking Tigers marks Shelly Yo’s directorial debut.

Spotlight Narrative

A launch pad for the most buzzworthy new films, Tribeca’s Spotlight Narrative section brings audiences anticipated premieres from acclaimed filmmakers and star performers.

Still from 'The Adults,' courtesy of Universal Pictures

The Adults

Produced by Julia Thompson ’16

North American Premiere

When Eric’s (Michael Cera) short trip back home turns into an extended stay, relationships with friends and family come to a head. The trip reunites him with his sisters, Rachel (Hannah Gross) and Maggie (Sophia Lillis), and unearths some old wounds as Maggie yearns to rekindle moments of their youth. At the same time, Eric falls back in with his old poker buddies, asserting his dominance as the best poker player in town. They gradually reveal their complicated inner lives, trauma, and relationships through theatrical performances and shared histories.

Still from 'LaRoy,' courtesy of Front Row Filmed Entertainment


Written and Directed by Shane Atkinson ’13

World Premiere

In this quirky, black crime comedy, Ray Jepsen (John Magaro) is a humble co-owner of a hardware store who still can’t believe he managed to marry local beauty queen Stacy-Lynn. When his private investigator friend, Skip (Steve Zahn), reveals to Ray that Stacy-Lynn is having an affair, Ray decides to kill himself. He secures a gun and goes to a seedy motel parking lot to do the deed, but before he can pull the trigger, he is mistaken by a stranger for a low-rent hitman (a sinister Dylan Baker) and given an envelope full of cash and an address. Desperate to win back his self-respect and his wife, Ray decides to take the job—but soon wishes he had just killed himself.

Still from 'Our Son,' courtesy of Tigresa

Our Son

Co-written by Barnard College Adjunct Lecturer Peter Nickowitz

Co-Produced by Alex Peace ’17

World Premiere

Billy Porter (Pose) stars as Gabriel, an aspiring artist struggling to find creative and personal spark while caring for the young son he shares with his ambitious partner, Nicky (Luke Evans). Stress and anxiety flare as their relationship gets to an unrepairable place, forcing the couple to head for a divorce. Now the two must navigate the unenviable position of revealing the news to shared friends and family. Thus begins the journey to find themselves and support their son.

Still from 'Shortcomings,' courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics


Music Coordination by Cheryl Wang '22

New York Premiere

Directed by Randall Park, Shortcomings is a thought-provoking and emotionally charged drama that explores the complexities of modern relationships, identity, and culture. Based on the critically acclaimed graphic novel by Adrian Tomine, the film follows the lives of Ben Tanaka (Justin H. Min) and Miko Hayashi (Ally Maki), a couple living in California who struggle to navigate their relationship and personal identities. As Ben, a Japanese-American comic book artist, confronts his feelings of inadequacy and racial identity, Miko, a Chinese-American writer, feels a sense of displacement and longing to belong. When Miko decides to work in New York City, Ben must confront his deepest fears and insecurities as he contemplates his future.


Tribeca’s home for distinct points of view and bold directorial visions, the Viewpoints section discovers the most boundary-pushing, rule-breaking new voices in independent film.

Still from 'Öte'


Written and Directed by Esra Saydam ’13 and Malik Isasis

Produced by Creative Producing student Eda Çarıkçı

World Premiere

Öte follows Lela, a Black woman from New York City, as she travels alone through Turkey. The film is guided by spontaneous encounters and beautiful landscapes. Lela's ultimate destination is to meet a friend in Armenia, but she doesn't seem to be in a rush to get there. The film is filled with the joys that come with spontaneous journeys, intimate conversations, and endless cups of warm Turkish coffee. In addition to serving as one of the producers, Çarıkçı also acts in the film.

Documentary Competition

This section features remarkable non-fiction premieres sure to make waves in the coming year.

Still from 'Rule of Two Walls,' courtesy of 2Brave Productions

Rule of Two Walls

Written, Directed, and Edited by Adjunct Assistant Professor David Gutnik ’12

World Premiere

Gutnik (Materna, Tribeca 2020) returns to the Festival with a raw, atmospheric portrait of today’s Ukraine through the lens of the artists who have chosen to stay. The film’s subjects are Gutnik’s intimate collaborators in exploring what it means to navigate the jarring rhythms and surreal juxtapositions of life under the shadow of war. A young couple wakes to air raid sirens and has tea on their balcony. Neighborhoods lie in ruins, and the community comes together to sweep up broken glass and rubble. Scenes of utter devastation provoke insomnia and numbness—yet friends gather to relax in a bar, an art center pushes ahead with a new exhibition, and artists redouble their commitment to their craft. The film features cinematography by Gutnik as well.

Spotlight Documentary

Both onscreen and behind the camera, Spotlight Documentary films represent the biggest names in nonfiction premiering high-profile new work.

Still from 'Invisible Beauty,' courtesy of Submarine Entertainment

Invisible Beauty

Written and Directed by Frédéric Tcheng ’07 and Bethann Hardison

New York Premiere

Featuring in-depth interviews with Hardison herself, Invisible Beauty is an elegant account of the model-turned-fashion industry insider’s life and career, culminating in her tireless advocacy for more diversity both on the runway and off. The film features vibrant archival footage and also spotlights some of the biggest names in fashion, including Naomi Campbell, Iman, and Zendaya. Tcheng is also credited with cinematography on this exciting new film.