From ballet-dancing robots to flaming toasters, this year’s Fordham Film Fest winners showcased a range of subjects and ideas from undergraduate student filmmakers. The winning films were announced and screened at STORY 2024, an annual conference held at Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus last month that also featured successful alumni from the film and TV industry.

This year’s batch of student films was among the strongest yet, said James Jennewein, a senior lecturer in the Department of Communication and Media Studies who runs the film and television undergraduate program.

“Over 40 original films were submitted, and there were so many high-quality stories being told, that this year it was especially hard to pick the 10 final winners,” he said. “The students never cease to inspire and amaze me with the level of artistry and storytelling skills they display.”

Fordham Film Fest Winners

Best In Festival: Ballet de la Poubelle by Honorah Brozio, a first-year student studying English with a minor in history

“I depicted a robot who feels left out of ballet and the robot represents every young dancer who feels like they aren’t good enough. Or any dancer who feels their body isn’t right for ballet, or their skin color isn’t right. I mostly wanted to highlight the feelings of a beginner dancer and the strength they have to have to keep going when it’s hard. Ballet is getting much better in terms of being inclusive but there’s a long history of discrimination. I have been dancing since I was very young. So this film was really a love letter to ballet while also acknowledging the struggles and exclusion many dancers experience.”

Best Cinematography: Jefa by Sebastian Giugovaz, a junior majoring in visual arts with a double minor in marketing and film and television

Jefa was actually the final project for my Visual Thinking class. We were assigned to create a museum gallery with works from artists all over the world, representing a theme or concept of our choice. The short was named and inspired by a painting by Argentinian artist Xul Solar, which is named Jefa. It depicts a smirking cat-like figure made of geometric shapes and the word “Jefa”, (meaning boss or patroness) on its body. Whether it be anxiety, fear, or sadness, I wanted to make a piece that makes people feel. The idea behind my short is that sometimes, certain ideas or influences consume us and end up becoming ‘bosses’ of us.”

Best Editing: The Mistake by Matthias Lai, a junior majoring in journalism and digital design

“The film was inspired by my personal experience working with a Super 8 camera and having a lot of trouble getting the exposure and settings right, and having to rework it into something new. The entire film was shot and edited by me, so setting the camera up to frame and focus correctly was a challenge sometimes. The scene on the subway was one where I felt really awkward putting a camera on a tripod and filming myself in a subway car with other people, but I was able to overcome that anxiety and the shot turned out great, so I’m definitely glad I did. The biggest thing I want people to take away is that perfection isn’t as important as resilience, and it is important to lean on your friends and loved ones when you need help working through a crisis. I want to give my appreciation to everyone who helped me with the making of The Mistake, especially my mom, to whom the film is dedicated.”

Hearing from Alumni in Film and TV

STORY 2024 was hosted by Fordham’s New York Film and Television Alliance, a student-run organization that connects students to film and TV professionals to campus to give students real-world career insights.

The March 2 conference, which was overseen by Jennewein and Heidi C. Bordogna, an advanced lecturer in communications and media studies, also featured a panel of successful alumni who have gone into careers in the industry.

“I wouldn’t be on the career path I am if it weren’t for my teachers at Fordham,” said Lyra Tan, FCLC ’20, who now works as a TV literary coordinator at the Gersh Agency in Los Angeles. She spoke alongside fellow alumni Desiree Ewing, FCLC ’18, director of development at Goodbye Pictures, and Kayla Otero, FCLC ’21, drama development coordinator at CBS.

“It’s really great to have that Fordham community out here in LA,” Tan said of her ongoing professional relationships with Ewing and Otero. “We’re sort of joined together for life that way.”