Columbia Films Screen at 2021 Tallahassee Film Festival, Kevin Contento ’18 Wins for 'The Conference of Birds'

Angeline Dimambro
September 22, 2021

The Conference of the Birds by alumnus Kevin Contento ’18 was awarded both the Directors’ Choice Award and the Audience Choice Award at the 2021 Tallahassee Film Festival.

As part of the Director’s Choice prize, Contento will receive a cash prize of $500. As noted on the official TFF website, “The film weaves together a handful of Farid Ud-Din Attar’s twelfth-century tales with everyday life in rural Pahokee, Florida and presents a series of portraits that triumphantly exhibit the true nature of the strong Black man in a culture that continues to perpetuate an image of degradation.”

While the virtual component of the festival has ended, you can watch an encore screening of all the award-winning films, including The Conference of the Birds, through this weekend.

Watch the trailer for the film here.


Original article: August 24, 2021

Two films by Columbia University filmmakers will screen at the upcoming 2021 Tallahassee Film Festival (TFF). They are: The Conference of the Birds directed by Kevin Contento ’18 and Labor Day directed by Haya B. AlGhanim ’20.

After having to cancel their 2020 festival series due to COVID-19, the Tallahassee Film Festival returns, running from September 18-19, 2021. Through its annual series of screenings and events, TFF seeks to present a celebration of arts and cinema that enriches audiences along with strengthening the cultural, economic, and social vitality of the region. The festival has also showcased early work by Oscar-nominated directors such as Denis Villeneuve and Oscar-winning directors like Barry Jenkins and Bong Joon-Ho, before their later work was even nominated.

The following films by Columbia filmmakers will screen at the upcoming festival:

The Conference of the Birds

Directed by Kevin Contento ’18

In-person screening: Sunday, September 19 at 2:30 pm ET

A handful of esoteric tales awaken three Florida boys to seek the Simorgh. Jean, Boleg, and Carter encounter a Poet searching for the Sun. His recitation of Sufi poetry tells of the allegorical journey the world’s birds undertake to their king, the Simorgh. This catapults their lives into seven vignettes. The Conference of the Birds weaves together a handful of Farid Ud-Din Attar’s twelfth-century tales with everyday life in rural Pahokee, Florida and presents a series of portraits that triumphantly exhibit the true nature of the strong Black man in a culture that continues to perpetuate an image of degradation.

Kevin Contento is a Colombian-American filmmaker who grew up in South Florida. A University of Central Florida alumnus, he majored in cinema studies with a minor in philosophy, religion, and popular culture. He earned his MFA in Screenwriting and Directing from the graduate Film Program at Columbia University’s School of the Arts. His thesis film, Hierophany, had its world premiere at the 2018 LA film festival, before going on to play at over a dozen festivals, including Slamdance in Park City, Utah and a sold-out screening at the prestigious BAM Rose Cinema as part of the Caribbean Film Series. The Conference of the Birds, his debut feature film, had its World Premiere in Paris, France at the 7eme Lune International Film Festival where it was awarded the Lune d'or (Golden Moon) by the Jury.

A woman with curly hair and a nose ring

Labor Day

Directed by Haya B. AlGhanim ’20

Produced by student Annie Pettinga

Co-produced by Brittany Fauconnet ’20

In-person screening: Saturday, September 18 at 11:30 am ET

When Dina is invited to spend Labor Day weekend on a trip to the Hudson Valley with a new group of friends, she slowly realizes these women aren’t what they seem to be. 

The film will screen as part of the festival’s Family Plots Short Program. The following Columbia alumni also worked on the film: Waleed Alqahtani ’20 (Cinematographer), Tony Yang ’20 (1st Assistant Director), Christina Wood ’19 (Art Department, Set Dresser), Mackenzie Lyle ’20 (Sound Recordist), Henry Arroyo ’21 (1st Assistant Camera), and Mitchell Gomes ’20 (Script Supervisor).

Haya B. AlGhanim is a screenwriter, director, and producer based between New York City and Kuwait City. Through her artistic and professional practice, AlGhanim aims to preserve and represent modern Arab art and culture. Her short films have screened at various international film festivals and other exhibition venues. Her short narrative, Same, Old. premiered at HBO’s Urbanworld Film Festival in New York and is currently traveling to other cities. Her short documentary, By the Medina, For the Medina won in the Best Documentary Short category at the first Kuwait Film Festival and was nominated for the Arab Film Awards presented by the Arab Film Institute.

Annie Pettinga is an American filmmaker living in New York City. She is a graduate of Syracuse University's College of Visual and Performing Arts where she received a BFA in Film with a concentration in Directing and a Minor in Drama. She has also studied Film at the Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts (FAMU) in Prague and Acting at Stella Adler Studio of Acting in New York City. Pettinga is a Screenwriting and Directing MFA candidate at Columbia University. She is the director of the short film We Don't Eat (2020). Outside of her work as a filmmaker, Pettinga is a video and installation artist, curator, and one of the co-founders of the feminist art collective Girl on Girl Collective.

Brittany Fauconnet is a Los Angeles-based film professional with experience in production and development. Having recently completed Columbia University’s Film MFA Program with a concentration in Creative Producing, Fauconnet is passionate about collaboration and meaningful storytelling. Before entering graduate school, Fauconnet worked freelance in production. Her credits include studio films and television shows (including jobs with Marvel, Sony, Netflix, Amazon, Paramount, 20th Century Fox, and more). She also has experience in locations and studio operations. Fauconnet’s production experience and storytelling knowledge give her a unique and holistic understanding of the film and television industry.