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Emerson Film Festival Offers Dancing Lions, Dystopia, More

The 22nd Annual Emerson Film Festival is back on Wednesday, March 22, with 12 films made by students exploring a range of issues, topics, and methods.

“I am excited about the diversity of the films in genre, style, subject and voice. We have documentary, animation, narrative, comedy, horror – all are stellar, unique visions,” said festival director Anna Feder, head of film exhibition and festival programs and curator of the Bright Lights Cinema Series.

The festival will take place in the Bright Family Screening Room in the Paramount Center. Doors open at 5:30 pm, and screening begins at 6:00 pm. The screening will be followed by a live moderated conversation with student filmmakers in person and via Zoom. A reception will follow at the Liebergott Black Box Theatre starting at 8:30 pm.

Winners will be chosen for the Audience Award, the Social Impact Award, and the Marcia Robbins Wilf Women in Film Award.

Submitted films were first viewed by a screening committee of 12 faculty members who watched more than 100 short films. Then Visual & Media Arts Associate Professor Sarah Zaidan and Feder curated the 100-minute program from four hours chosen from the faculty screeners.

Person laying in bed
Tris Arthur’s Lying in Bed Alone, Breathing, examines one person’s struggle with gender dysphoria.

Tris Arthur’s (’24) film, Lying in Bed Alone, Breathing, is very personal.

Initially created for a class assignment to make a film conceptualized around the use of accessibility features, Arthur said the film gave her the opportunity to make her inner self more accessible as well.

“I’d been struggling for some time, coming to grips with how my experience with gender dysphoria was changing six years after coming out as trans, so I took this film as an opportunity to better understand myself and what I was going through,” Arthur said. “By making my thoughts more accessible and really digging into what is happening when I’m actively experiencing a large degree of dysphoria, the hope was that the film would be an opportunity to reach some peace with myself. As such, my film is essentially a document of my attempt at catharsis.” 10 minutes

Two people dance in a Chinese lion costume

Xudong Liu’s (MA ’23) Gund Kwok is about the first women’s lion dance troupe in the U.S., founded by Cheng Imm Tan. The lion dance is a folk dance from Asia that in the past, was performed exclusively by men. Tan and 15 Asian women strive to break lingering stereotypes about Asian women. 19 minutes

Together, Laughing, directed by Claire Maske, MFA ’24 uses 16mm imagery of wilt and decay and archival audio of sick or deceased family members of her family. The film is a meditation on transience, memory, and the failure of the archive to truly preserve anything at all. 4 minutes

A man in a mask in a projectionist room

Projectionist, directed by Deniz Akyurek ’24 and Noah Matalon ’24, is a portrait of Tom Welch, the lead projectionist at the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline, Massachusetts. 5 minutes

Directed by Shuailiang Liu ’21, Dollkind, is a fairytale feature in which sentient dolls dominate the land and humans have become the property of state-run labor camps. A lone escapee returns to rescue his family, concealed as a mascot in hopes of evading his ex-master. But fate has something else in mind in a world where nobody is truly innocent. 13 minutes

A shed

Directed by Laura Hoffheimer ’23, Vulpes, is about a sly, nimble fox who has spent many years conjuring the idea of “man” and what it means to be human, and then becomes a human to learn their ways. 7 minutes

“I am inspired by films like Ex Machina and Spirited Away, which challenge mankind from a non-human perspective, and I wanted to bring animalistic eyes to this type of story,” said Hoffheimer.

A person wearing a blackface mask, white gloves, a jacket and bowtie with top hat

The Entertainer, directed Demiah Crawford ’22, is a short horror dance film representing the struggles of being a Black woman in the entertainment industry. The story explores themes of stereotypes, exploitation, and sacrificing one’s morals to entertain. As the main character goes on this journey, she meets a friend along the way. 5 minutes

People sitting around in a park

Dope, directed by Kaveh Hodjat ’25, and is about a photographer’s attempt to make some friends. 4 minutes

A cartoonish drawing of a man with stars around them

Headlands, directed by Cecelia Clare Meade ’25, is about an old woman, grieving the loss of her childhood, who visits the coast to complete a labyrinth. In the process, she is mesmerized by the waves and is greeted by her childhood within them. 5 minutes

Directed by Carlo Ang, MA ’25, Nancy is the story of a mother told entirely through voicemail messages saved by her daughter over the span of 10-plus years.

Nancy is a short story about a mother’s unconditional (and occasionally overbearing) love for her child — as showcased through the lens of one particularly unique matriarch. 5 minutes

“While most would argue that their moms are special, I personally have not met any other mom, or better yet, any other human, quite like my fiancé’s mother, Nancy,” said Ang. “Nancy checks in with each of her five children every day—multiple times a day—simply to see how their days are going. As a result of her mother’s lovingly incessant calls, my fiancé has collected more than 100 of Nancy’s voicemails over the years. I’ve always wanted to find a way to release them into the world; this is how Nancy came into fruition.”

A hand reaches up

Power of the Human Heart is co-directed by Sasha Garcia ’26, Kuzco Gong ’26, and Francisco Viana ’26. It’s about a man’s harrowing journey to escape death. 8 minutes

Shadow of a person with a blurry

Prologue, directed by Corey Zhengyang Tian ’23, tells the story of a lonely detective in a dystopian world, caught in a mystery as he tries to uncover the truth about an unsolved case from the past. 6 minutes

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