Two Columbia Films Win at Palm Springs Shortfest 2021

Felix Van Kann
June 29, 2021

Two Columbia films are among those selected as juried award winners of the 2021 Palms Springs International Shortfest Festival. The winners were announced June 27, 2021, on the festival’s closing night at the Camelot Theatres. Awards and cash prizes, some worth $25,000, were presented to the winners, who were selected from 295 shorts films that comprised the larger Official Selection pool.

El Clásico, the short film directed by alumnus Joel Vázquez Cárdenas '20 and written by Andrés Fernández '19, was selected as the winner for Best Student US Short. The film, which was produced by Fernández as well, was featured in the festival’s On the Road program and was screened again June 28, 2021 as part of the Best of the Fest: International Films block.

The Fourth of July, written and directed by Film student Major Dorfman and produced by alumnus Mitchell Gomes '20, was also named as a Special Mention in the competition for Best Student US Short. The film first screened at the festival’s All About My Mother program, followed by a second screening at the Best of Fest: Medley 1 block on June, 28, 2021.

The selection jury for the Best Student U.S. Short Award was comprised of Carlos Aguilar (Film Critic); Christina Routhier (Executive Director of Theaters and Festivals at SCAD); Yuan Yuan (Writer/Director at New York University, and 2020 ShortFest award winner in this category).

Two figure walking towards a car at dawn
Man and boy wearing blue in car as viewed through windshield

Original Article 6/8/2021:

A staggering fourteen films by Columbia filmmakers are set to screen at this year’s Palm Springs Shortfest from June 22 to June 28, 2021. The festival will be the first in the state of California to hold all of its screenings in theatre again this year. It is one of the most acclaimed short film showcases in the world with awards and cash prizes worth $25,000, including five Academy Award-qualifying awards. Winners will be announced on Sunday, June 27 and the Best of the Fest shorts will screen on the final day, Monday, June 28.

Here is a list of all the films that will show at the festival:

Playing in the Best Student U.S. Short Competition:

Woman dressed in black in the subway

After Dark
Minka Bleakley '20, Writer, Director, Co-Editor
Christina Wood '20, Producer
Mitchell Gomes '20, Co-Producer
Brusi Olason '20, Co-Editor

When 17-year-old Ronnie is kicked out of her mother’s Queens apartment, she exhausts her contact list in search of somewhere to crash. With only a few bad friends to turn to, and her local bodega man out of town, Ronnie ends up on a journey throughout New York City in search of a bed. When 17-year-old Ronnie is kicked out of her mother’s Queens apartment, she exhausts her contact list in search of somewhere to crash. With only a few bad friends to turn to, and her local bodega man out of town, Ronnie ends up on a journey throughout New York City in search of a bed. 

Program: Nights to Remember

Playing Tuesday, June 22 2:30 PM PT

Room full of seated people

Sushma Khadepaun '20, Writer and Director
Sasha John '17, Co-Producer

While attending her sister's wedding in India, the forces of patriarchy push Anita to question whether her life in America is any better than in her hometown. The film recently won the Best Film Award at this year’s Columbia University Film Festival.

Anita is also in competition for Best of the Festival. 

Program: Codes of Conduct

Playing Thursday, June 24 10:30 AM PT

Two women looking closely at each other


Constance Tsang '20, Co-Writer, Director
Tony Yang '20, Producer and Co-Writer
Marta Cruanas Compes '20, Co-Producer 

Beau is an emerging artist who is about to unveil her latest installation. Her lover, Paloma, is a devoted supporter and her closest confidante. The pressure for Beau's success causes a rift in their relationship, and soon life imitates art. 

Program: Power Plays

Playing Thursday, June 24 2:30 PM PT

Man leaning in to speak to younger person

Beauty Marks
Gina Hackett '20, Co-Writer and Director
Christina Wood '20, Producer
Waleed Alqahtani '20, Co-Writer
Cameron Bruce Nelson '20, Editor 

Ritchie begins to worry she shouldn’t have left her mother with a handsome drifter after wandering off with his reckless daughter. 

Program: Brief Encounters

Friday, June 25 11:00 AM PT

Still from 'Buzzkill'

Student Kathy Esquenazi Mitrani, Writer and Director
Student Aliza Brugger, Producer
Manqing Cang '20, Producer

A young girl desperately tries to fit in with a group of South Florida teenagers. 

Program: Sundrenched

Playing Thursday, June 24 1:00 PM PT

Man in yellow shirt holding flowers seated in front of a painting


Asad Farooqui '19, Writer, Co-Producer, Actor, Director

It's Eid. At a chaotic party, with politics in the air and the men and women separated, two acquaintances share a secret. 

Program: All in the Family

Playing Saturday, June 26 9:00 AM PT

Young woman with black hair

Student Hazel McKibbin, Writer and Director
Student Stephanie Fine, Producer
Student Meera Vaidya, Associate Producer

A young woman grapples with the aftermath of reporting sexual harassment in the workplace, and having to go back to work. 

Doublespeak is also in competition in the Best Live-Action Short 15 Minutes and Under category. 

Program: Codes of Conduct

Playing Thursday, June 24 10:30 AM PT

El Clásico

Joel Vázquez Cárdenas '20, Director
Andrés Fernández '19, Writer and Producer

The tumultuous journey of two friends on their way to a soccer stadium hands them a new perspective of their friendship, their morals and Mexico City. 

Program: On the Road

Playing Tuesday, June 22 10:30 AM PT

Still from 'Hector's Woman'

Hector's Woman

Student Ricardo Varona, Writer and Director
Student Annie Pettinga, Producer
Tony Yang '20, Producer 

In 2018, a year after the landfall of Hurricane María, a young mother attempts to find herself as she wrestles with her responsibilities to her daughter and incarcerated husband. 

Hector's Woman is also in competition for Best of the Festival.

Program: Getting it On

Playing Thursday, June 24 6:15 PM PT

Grey husky dog looking out a car window

Max is Bleeding

Student Jordan Anstatt, Producer, Director and Editor
Student Louis Lagayette, Writer
Student Harrison Perkins, Producer
Student Pasha Gambourg, Producer
Student Molly Evans, Producer

Courtney is on the way to the vet with her boyfriend and injured dog Max, but something’s wrong. Her strange demeanor raises the question: is Max the only one who needs help? 

Program: Public Spaces, Private Lives

Playing Tuesday, June 22 9:00 AM PT

Man crossing bridge, carrying an object over his head

Muscle Memory
Saladin White II '20, Writer and Director
Najah Diop '20, Producer
Daniel Becerril '20, Editor

On the anniversary of his father's death, Tariq dedicates a dance to him. 

Program: Face the Music

Playing Sunday, June 27 9:45 AM PT

The Fourth of July
Student Major Dorfman, Writer and Director
Mitchell Gomes '20, Producer

A young mother struggles to parent her two rambunctious boys over the course of one hot summer day. 

Program: All About My Mother

Playing Wednesday, June 23 9:00 AM PT

Young woman looking down in front of open lockers

The Virgin, The Old Lady, The Journey (La Virgen, La Vieja, El Viaje)
Student Natalia Luque Barrios, Writer and Director
Marta Cruañas Compés '20, Producer
Student Kathy Esquenazi-Mitrani, Co-Editor 

Rocío is a Colombian immigrant living in New York away from her family. While working, she must rely on technology to say farewell to her grandmother from a distance.

Program: Far From Home 

Playing Friday, June 25 9:45 AM PT

Playing in the Best Live-Action Short Over 15 Minutes Category: 

Family portrait in front of red and gold background

Lonely Blue Night
Johnson Cheng '20, Writer and Director 
Apoorva Charan '18, Producer

An awkward family reunion at a business dinner leads a Chinese mother to realize the consequences of leaving her daughter in the care of an American homestay family. 

Program: Nights to Remember 

Playing Tuesday, June 22 2:30 PM PT