Blasting back to the past at the fourteenth annual Film Festival


Lindsay Taylor '24

Students in the Sacred Heart Media Studies program celebrate the culmination of their creativity at the Film Festival.

Sacred Heart Greenwich traveled back to the 80s April 13 from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. in the Lennie and John de Csepel Theatre as the fourteenth annual Film Festival entertained and captivated audience members.  Student filmmakers showcased their art under the theme of Back to the Future. 

Hosts Jacqueline and Advika announce the PSA category judge.  Courtesy of Mr. Kevin Williamson

Seniors Jhonni Dixon, Advika Dusyanth, Jacqueline Franco, and Lili Jordan took the stage as the hosts of the Film Festival.  They have been working since May 2022 with the other Film Festival chairs to organize the event.  To contribute to the entertainment of the night, the hosts bantered about losing the time machine that took them back to the 80s and whether or not they wanted to return to the modern age.  

A panel of Real World and Creative Filmmaking students composed the Film Festival Selection Committee.  With their experience in storytelling, editing, screenwriting, and filmmaking, the Committee, which included the hosts and junior Maeve Dempsey as the Chair, selected the films for each category.  From December to January, each member of the committee rated each of the 64 films and collectively eliminated half of the films in each category, resulting in 33 final selections.

The Lennie and John de Csepel theater also hosted Mr. Tom Llamas, Mrs. Jennifer Llamas, Ms. Abby Horton, Ms. Caroline Keller ’13, and Mr. Mosheh Oinounou as the film festival’s judges.  Mr. Llamas, National Broadcasting Company (NBC) News Anchor and National Senior Correspondent, and Mrs. Llamas, former Executive Producer at Microsoft National Broadcasting Company (MSNBC), judged the Public Service Announcement (PSA) category.  Mr. Oinounou, former Executive Producer at Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) News and founder of Mo News, judged the documentary category.  Ms. Keller, production manager at Lucasfilm LTD, judged the experimental category.  Ms. Keller’s previous projects include Star Wars Visions, Light and Magic, and Star Wars Galaxy Adventures.  The director of the comedy-thriller Blow Up My Life, Ms. Horton judged the films in the creative category.  Filmmaker Magazine named Ms. Horton one of their “25 New Faces of Independent Film” and festivals such as South by Southwest (SXSW) have featured her work. 

The PSA category showcased films that were 60 seconds or shorter that shed light on current issues.  Sophomore Amy Walsh received the second place award for her film “Recharge,” which used the image of dead phone batteries to raise awareness of the mental health crisis and burnout among teenagers.  Freshman Keira Frascella won first place for her PSA “Light Night,” which juxtaposed neon blue graphics and screens with the darkness of a house at night to represent the impact of social media on sleep.

Juniors Julia Randolph and Katie O’Brien created the PSA “An Endangered Earth,” which focuses on the disappearance of the honey bee population in North American agriculture and food production.  Julia discussed the difficult process of creating this film and how the beauty of nature inspired her and Katie’s work.

“Coming up with ideas for films is really challenging,” Julia said.  “I usually talk to my parents or expand on ideas I have.  I also am inspired by the films I watch and what I enjoy doing.  I make a lot of films regarding the environment because I really love the outdoors and capturing videos of nature is one of my favorite things.

Emily and Devan accept the first place documentary award for “Upon Return.”  Courtesy of Mr. Kevin Williamson

Each documentary featured an interview with a prominent local figure and expressed different facets of emotion and life through their narratives.  Jacqueline won second place for “A World of Pink,” centering on a business that works to provide women suffering from breast cancer with prosthetic breasts and other resources to help them regain comfort in their bodies.  Juniors Devan Jordan and Emily Sedgwick took home first place for their film “Upon Return,” telling the story of former American Broadcasting Company (ABC) journalist Mr. Bob Woodruff who was injured during the Iraq War.

Julia’s documentary “A Generational Gift” was another Film Festival nominee in the documentary category.  She centered the film on her family’s passion for the outdoors and her grandfather’s continued impact on her family.

“I made ‘A Generational Gift’ because I knew I wanted to make a film about hiking,” Julia said.  “Over the summer, I spent a month backpacking in Wyoming, and I wanted to find a way to incorporate my experience with the National Outdoor leadership School into my films.  My grandfather was an avid mountaineer and hiker and I wanted to explore how this love for exploring was passed down my family tree.”

The experimental category included inventive films that used subversive methods of sound mixing and editing to convey unique stories and messages.  “Light” by junior Isabella Nardis, a film that used fire and multi-colored dyes to create a sense of brightness, received second place in the category.  Sophomore Lila Caruso won first place for her use of layering and symbolism to portray a teenage struggle with body image in her film “In Order to Create Chaos.”

The creative category featured diverse films that focused on a more traditional storytelling structure.  Junior Kelsey Wilkens’ film about a teenage girl’s relationship with her diary and her friends, “Dear Journal,” took home second place in the category.  Juniors Ella Breitenbach and Isabella Nardis won first place for “Homecoming,” a comedic portrayal of a student’s struggle to secure a date for the Homecoming dance.

The awards of the evening concluded with one final audience choice award.  Audience members voted for their favorite film in each category with an online polling system.  “I Am Your Future,” a film by Amy Walsh and junior Clare Murray about gun violence in schools, won the award in the PSA category.  Devan Jordan and Emily Sedgwick claimed another award for “Upon Return” in the audience choice documentary category.  Emily also won the audience choice award for her experimental film “Hold on Tight” about the celebration of childhood.  Finally, junior Jane Murphy took home the last award of the night for her creative film “Muffins” about a humorous student protest against the rising cost of school muffins.

Kelsey, Jane, and Emily also wrapped up the night by presenting a montage as a goodbye to all the senior members of the filmmaking department.  Each senior subsequently received a trophy honoring their participation in the film program.

Mr. David Pisani, Creative Filmmaking Teacher and Upper School Multimedia Faculty Member, remarked that the Film Festival acts as a culmination of student work in the Media Studies Department both over the course of the year and their Upper School careers.  He reflected on how much passion and care the students put into their submissions for the festival.

“It gives the students a goal, and that’s one of the main things we talk about in narrative cinematic storytelling,” Mr. Pisani said.  “That goal directs their work, it directs their efforts, and it motivates them to do their best work because they want to be in the Film Festival.  Every once in a while, we have a freshman who makes a film, and it is selected for the Film Festival, but, for the most part, films are by seniors, juniors, and some sophomores because they have some experience.  That is a motivation to make better and better work and find ways to expand their skill set.”

Featured Image by Lindsay Taylor ’24