Students and Alumni Win at the 33rd Annual Columbia University Film Festival (CUFF)

Tiffany Davis
May 04, 2021

The 33rd Columbia University Film Festival (CUFF) concluded on May 3 with its annual Awards Night ceremony. This event honored the students and recent alumni behind the 22 short films that screened at this year’s festival. The program featured award announcements for films in the festival, graduating students, and other exemplary students in the MFA Film Program. Honorees were selected by the CUFF Jury and full-time faculty members.

You will find a list of this year’s winning films and filmmakers below. Please also visit the CUFF website to learn more about the Jury Selects and Honors films, Faculty Selects and Honors scripts, and Screenwriting Night honorees. Awards Night took place virtually this year via the online platform Filmocracy.

Best Film


Writer/Director: Sushma Khadepaun ’20

While attending her sister’s wedding in India, the title character, Anita, is pushed to question whether her life in America is any better than those in her hometown.

Born and raised in India, Sushma Khaepaun is a writer/director based in New York City. Her short film Anita premiered at the Venice Film Festival 2020 and won several awards including The Gotham/Focus Features Student Showcase, NBR Student Grant Award, among others. Khaepaun is currently developing a feature script Salt, which was a recipient of the SFFilm Westridge Grant and was invited to the Torino Film Next Lab.


Still from Ese verano nos quedamos en casa

Best Director

Noelia R. Deza ’19

Ese verano nos quedamos en casa

In a country house in the middle of nowhere, the life of a couple repeats itself in an eternal cycle of daily routines and abuse.

Noelia R. Deza is a screenwriter/director, editor and producer from Madrid, Spain. She was educated at ECAM (Madrid), EICTV (Cuba) and Columbia University School of the Arts (New York), where she obtained an MFA. Her films have been selected and awarded at festivals such as DocumentaMadrid, DOKLeipzig, Tribeca, FICUNAM Mexico, Beijing ISVF, FTII India, New Hampshire Film Festival, Abycine and Malaga Film Festival, among others. Her latest film, That Summer, We Stayed at Home won a New York Foundation for the Arts/MOME’s Women’s Fund award before premiering at Malaga Film Festival. Deza’s work is rooted in naturalism which, combined with her minimalist mise en scène, creates sensorily rich cinematographic worlds that blur the line between fiction and nonfiction.

Still from Entre tú y Milagros

Adrienne Shelly Award for Best Female Director

Mariana Saffon 19

Entre tú y Milagros

At fifteen, Milagros' world still revolves around her mother's affection. This summer an unexpected encounter with death will make her question their relationship and her own existence.

Mariana Saffon is a Colombian Writer/Director. She has directed short films and commercials in Morocco, Mexico, Colombia and the US and has screened her work in festivals around the world. She is a Columbia University MFA Graduate, and winner of the Milos Forman Directing Fellowship. Her latest short film, Entre tú y Milagroswon the Orizzonti Short Film competition at the 77th Venice International Film Festival in 2020. The short script won the Colombian Film Fund for short film production and the Indian Paintbrush Production Fund in 2019. She is currently writing her first feature, La Botero, which will be shot in Medellín, Colombia.


3PAS Studios Award for Excellence in Producing

Tony Yang ’20


Beau, an emerging artist, is about to unveil her latest installation. Her lover, Paloma, is a devoted supporter and her closest confidante. Her final breakthrough hinges on the success of Beau's newest piece and soon this pressure causes a rife in the two women's relationship.

Tony Yang is a Chinese-American film producer based in New York City. He has produced three feature films and over twenty short films including LeotardSnow QueenAliceTin ElephantMan Of War, and We Don’t Eat. His films have screened at numerous festivals including the Traverse City Film Festival, San Diego Asian Film Festival, Chelsea Film Festival, Oceanside International Film Festival, Austin Spotlight Film Festival, and Miami International Film Festival. In addition to his film producing, Yang has also worked on several TV series, including The Get Down (Netflix), Mating (Showtime), and Agent Carter (ABC). Yang holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Film and TV Production from Michigan State University and is an MFA candidate at Columbia University.


Richard Brick Fund for Special Distinction in Line Producing

Silvia Chen 

The Day He Returns

Two old friends who haven't met in years embark on a trip to visit their teacher. What will they find on the road in suburban Taipei?

Silvia Chen is a New York-based film and television producer. She came to the US from Taiwan with a 6-year background in television advertising and music video production. She has produced over 40 TV commercials broadcast in Taiwan and China where her clients included Audi, Mercedes Benz, Ford, Google Search, and is a proficient line producer. A music video she produced, Slow / Oriental by Sunset Rollercoaster, won the prize for Best Music Video at the 2019 Golden Melody Awards in Taiwan. Since moving to New York, Chen has directed two short films, Coffee and Tea and All for Your Own Good, and produced several—Five to FourWe Want Our Money Back, and Aburo, which was selected for Miami Film Festival in 2021. The short she co-produced, Doublespeak was nominated for Sundance Film Festival 2021.


CUFF 2021 Audience Awards

Program A: We Are A Family

Program B: Must Love Pie and Stay Don’t Go (tie)

Program C: Anita

Program D: Forastera

Program E: An Evening with Laila


National Board of Review (NBR) Student Grant Nominees

Shae Xu for Duet

Joel Vázquez Cárdenas ’18 for El Clásico

Victoria Rivera ’20 for Lucia

Saladin White II ’20 for Muscle Memory

Patrick Clement ’20 for Must Love Pie


NBR Marion Carter Green Award Nominee


Writer/Director: Shae Xu

Producer: Chuxin Huo ’20

An unspoken romance inevitably resurfaces when a high school music teacher meets an old colleague again and decides to perform together for the first time as piano duet partners after they’ve long since drifted apart from each other.

Shae Xu (b.1989) is a Shanghai filmmaker based in New York. Her works unveil a feminist’s concern in a fast-growing China. Xu is a Talents Tokyo alumni and her short film Duet has won Directors Guild of America’s Grand Prize Student Film Award in the Women Directors category. Xu is currently working on her first feature Yellow Plum Rain.

Chuxin Huo (b. 1995) is a filmmaker based in New York and Beijing. Her ambition is to lead the development of independent films in China, with a focus on telling stories from marginalized perspectives. Huo received her MFA in Creative Producing from Columbia University in 2020.


Milena Jelinek Memorial Award

Jorge Granados Ross


The Miloš Forman Directing Fellowship

Wan Xin Tang


Alex Sichel Fellowship

Grace Phillips


Arthur Krim Memorial Award

Alexis Stodghill

Donovan Tolledo


eMinutes Launch Fund Award

Nina Mahesh ’21


Max Rifkind Barron Launch Fund Award

Henry Arroyo ’21

Harrison Perkins ’21

Constance Tsang ’20


Michael Hausman/Filmhaus Foundation Award

Patrick Nichols

Adelaide Pallincourt