Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Advertise in our classifieds section
Your classified listing could be here!
October 4, 2022

Student films highlight grief, climate crisis, cultural heritage during the 15th Texas Union Film Festival

Miranda Revilla
Students in the Texas Union Theater at the 15th Texas Union Film Festival on Feb. 22, 2024.

Dressed to the nines in attire inspired by Hollywood award shows, student directors and film enthusiasts grabbed some popcorn and found a seat for the showcasing of 10 short films submitted by UT students at the 15th annual Texas Union Film Festival on Thursday.

At the end of the night, three film industry professionals announced the winning directors: Estela Riera-Vales in third place with her film “Déjame Volar,” Nolan Walley in second with “Phrogger” and Olivia Carter in first with “Life is Like a Play.” The panel awarded the directors with exclusive passes to three prominent film festivals: Fantastic Fest, Austin Film Festival and South by Southwest respectively.

Through genres ranging from satirical comedy to drama with elements of surrealism, the student directors used their films to address difficult subjects such as grief, the climate crisis and womanhood. Riera-Vales’s film addressed self-identity as a Latinx woman. 

“Filmmaking is about putting yourself out there and letting people see what you can do,” Riera-Vales said. “It’s a really vulnerable thing.”

Inspired by a Latinx filmmaking class offered last year, several student directors chose to honor their cultural and religious identities. Marlon Rubio Smith, radio-television-film senior and director of “TROMPO”, said he wanted to base his films off of his personal experiences.

“I’m proudly Mexican and Latino,” Rubio Smith said. “I always try to incorporate an aspect of my culture in my films due to the lack of films that there are from our community.”

Additionally, the panel awarded Frida Lopez-Stern’s “Bella’s House” with the Fan Favorite award, Lauren Haughey’s “Joe-Mato” with Best Editing and Marcelo Cisneros’ “Lucio” as an Honorable Mention.

“I’m really glad that we can appreciate our work and others’ work as well,” Cisneros said.

The board selected the final 10 films after narrowing down over 70 submissions. Lopez-Stern, radio-television-film senior, said that due to the festival’s competitive nature, receiving a nomination as a finalist surprised her.

“I definitely was not expecting (my film) to move on, considering there were so many other films,” Lopez-Stern said. “I already feel accomplished just by being in the festival.”

Evan Craig, TUFF organizer and African and African diaspora studies sophomore, said the festival allows students to connect with other UT filmmakers. In an industry rooted in the quality of connections, Craig said showcasing work or viewing student films helps to discover future projects.

“TUFF is the best time for (student filmmakers) to show their stuff,” Craig said. “It’s a good setup for the public to see their work and (for them) to actually be recognized.”

Lopez-Stern said her film’s acceptance into TUFF gave her hope that her work could make an impact.

“To be accepted, even into small festivals, is proof that other people are actually enjoying the work you do,” Lopez-Stern said. “It’s very validating as the creator of that piece of media.”

Aside from career aspirations, the directors reflected on the passion that goes into creating a film. Brandy Frausto, radio-television-film senior and director of “La Benedición”, said finding fulfillment in the film extends beyond the final product.

“It’s a really wonderful thing to be a filmmaker because it’s more than just creating a film,” Frausto said. “You are creating communities and families. And that’s a lifetime.”

More to Discover