Falling down the rabbit hole at the thirteenth annual Film Festival


Courtesy of Mr. Kevin Williamson

Members of all branches of the Broadcast Journalism Program take a final bow at the night’s conclusion.

Echoes of applause, laughter following comical dialogue, and scores of student-directed films filled the Lennie and John de Csepel Theatre April 7 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the thirteenth annual Film Festival.  Students transformed the theatre into a Wonderland, displaying imagination and leading attendees down a cinematic rabbit hole.  

The senior Film Festival hosts participate in playful banter at the annual Film Festival.  Courtesy of Mr. Kevin Williamson

Seniors Erin Griffin, Elisa Taylor, Olivia Berkery, and Rachel Lherisson hosted this year’s Film Festival.  The four hosts, alongside Film Festival Co-Chairs Sarah Boutelle and Mary Hawthorn, began planning in September 2021.  In order to make the evening entertaining and memorable for both filmmakers and audience members, the hosts acted out comical Wonderland skits in between the screening of each film category.

Rachel believes she has gained a wealth of knowledge from organizing and participating in this year’s Film Festival.  She elaborated on the team effort that goes into planning the event.

“Through our preparation for this event, I have learned the importance of collaboration,” Rachel said.  “The Film Festival is such a team effort because so much work goes into it.  It would not be possible without the large team we have to produce it.” 

In the Real World and Creative Filmmaking classes, students write, direct, and produce their own films using camera equipment, cinematic techniques, and actors of their choice.  Student directors submitted their film projects to specific categories, creative, experimental, documentary, or public service announcement (PSA).  The Film Festival Selection Committee then chose 32 of the 75 student-submitted videos to showcase at the Film Festival.  This year’s committee consisted of nine Broadcast Journalism and Real World Filmmaking students, including Isabella Stewart, Cailin Gordon, Lili Jordan, Emma Denson, Charlotte Fallon, and Alex Hannett, as well as Rachel, Sarah, and Mary. 

Ms. Andrea Canning, Mr. Mike Doyle, Mrs. Amy Redford, and Ms. Jessica Johnson ’15 served as the judges for this year’s festival.  Ms. Canning, a National Broadcasting Company (NBC) Dateline correspondent, judged the documentary category.  Ms. Canning is also a screenwriter for Hallmark and Lifetime.  An actor and the director of Almost Love, Mr. Doyle, judged the experimental category.  Mrs. Redford is a director, producer, and actor in film, television, and theatre.  She used her wide range of expertise to select winning films in the creative category.  Ms. Johnson, PSA judge, works in Detroit, Michigan as a digital reporter and content producer for WXYZ-TV. 

Each PSA film was 60 seconds or less and drew attention to relevant social issues.  Sophomore Isabella Nardis won second place in the PSA category for her film Gallons.  Isabella used artistic and creative methods to draw attention to the issue of water waste.  Juniors Advika Dushyanth and Jhonni Dixon won first place in the PSA category for their short film, The Algorithm, which drew attention to the harmful effects social media has on young women.

The documentary category dealt with a wide range of topics at this year’s festival, as student directors shed light on the diversity of the human experience.  In her film Commendable Cafe, Sophomore Cait Haggerty showcased the love that the Rye, New York community has for a small family-run cafe called Poppy’s.  Cait’s film won second place in the documentary category.

“My documentary reshapes the focus of what a family business truly is,” Cait said.  “It is not just about the family who owns the business; it is about all the customers who become a part of something bigger when they become regulars at a small cafe like Poppy’s.”

Senior Catherine Baranello took first place in the documentary category for her film The American Dream.  Catherine’s film featured the voices of her grandparents, who spoke about their experience coming to the United States.

Senior Ella Radtke received second place in the experimental category for her film Biophilia.  Biophilia artistically captured the aesthetics of nature from the perspectives of two young women.  Elisa won first place for her film Downtown.  Elisa’s film featured vibrant displays of city artwork and upbeat background music.

Film Festival Co-Chair Sarah Boutelle and Senior Cailin Gordon smile with their awards from the annual Film Festival.  Courtesy of Mr. Kevin Williamson

The last film category of the night was the creative category.  Seniors Sarah Boutelle and Cailin Gordon took home second place in the creative category for their gothic film Saving Halloween.  Saving Halloween introduced the audience to the life of Coraline, a young girl whose favorite holiday is Halloween.  In addition to winning first place in the creative category, Elisa also won the top prize in the creative category for her film Bento Love.  Ms. Ellyn Stewart, Upper School Studio Director and Broadcast Journalism Teacher, was especially proud of Elisa’s film. 

Elisa has been working on Bento Love since she was a junior in my class last year,” said Ms. Stewart.  “She recently received the National Gold Medal from Scholastic Art Awards for this film.  Bento Love is a stop motion film that beautifully and tenderly captures the story of a Japanese girl who struggles to embrace her identity in an American school.  This film is breathtaking, heartwarming, and a true work of art.  Elisa spent hundreds and hundreds of hours working on this project for over a year.  Each prop, set, and character in the film was handcrafted and needed to be photographed frame by frame.  It was so exciting that Elisa could finally share her labor of love with an audience.”

In addition to the PSA, documentary, experimental, and creative awards from the judges, audience members vote for their favorite films with an online polling system at the end of the Film Festival.  Freshman Lila Caruso won the PSA audience choice award for her film They Said.  Sophomore Emily Sedgwick won the documentary audience choice award for her film It’s About What You Can Do.  In addition to her first-place prize in the PSA category, Jhonni won the experimental audience choice award this time for her film A Wild Thing.  Elisa’s film Bento Love won its second award of the evening, the creative audience choice award

Ms. Leah Principe, Upper School Multimedia Assistant Teacher, expressed how the Film Festival unites the Sacred Heart community.  She discussed how exciting it is to celebrate the efforts of student directors.

“I think what makes the Film Festival so special is the fact that the whole school comes together to support the Broadcast and Filmmaking Program and students,” Ms. Principe said. “These students have been working so hard not only on their videos but on the preparation leading up to the festival to ensure it is a wonderful night for all.  So to see all their hard work displayed in one night is very special.”

Featured Image Courtesy of Mr. Kevin Williamson