8th Annual Centrally Isolated Film Festival

By: Aurora Ricardo,  Department of Performing & Media Arts
April 19, 2021

This year's 8th annual Centrally Isolated Film Festival (CIFF) — Cornell’s annual student-run film competition celebrating student filmmakers — returns with virtual screenings of selected films, available for free streaming anytime from Thursday, April 22 - Friday April 30 at bit.ly/centrallyisolatedfilmfestival. The festival culminates with the winner announcement on April 30 at 4:30 p.m. EDT via Zoom — click here to attend.

Since 2013, the Centrally Isolated Film Festival has been a highlight of the Department of Performing & Media Arts' spring season. Student filmmakers from colleges and universities throughout the greater central and upstate New York region and beyond submit short films to be judged by industry professionals.

This year, submissions were selected from Cornell, Ithaca College, Binghamton University, Syracuse University, UC Berkeley, University of Pennsylvania, Dartmouth College Columbia University, Colgate University, and City University of New York. Cash prizes of $200 are awarded to first-place winners in four categories: Narrative, Documentary, Experimental, and Audience Choice.

The 2021 juror panel features writer and producer Dawn Kamoche '07 (Sharp Objects, 2018); Daniel Fermín Pfeffer, award winning Mexican-American filmmaker and incoming PMA Visiting Assistant Professor in Film Production; Alex Rehberg '16, Creative Director at First Media U.S., a multi-platform content publisher; filmmaker Kimberly Scarsella '16; and Pauline Shongov '18, a current Ph.D. student in Film and Visual Studies at Harvard University.

Student organizers of the festival included Jackson Cruger '22, Sahara Ellis '22, Alex Frank '21, Daniel Hernandez '22, David Jansen '22, Bailey Landow '21, Elizabeth Latella '21, Felisha Li '22, Christian Lippey '21, Veronica Nobrega '21, Olachi Nwuke '22, Zhen Xiao '21, and Asher Zelson '21. 

True to the festival's mission of celebrating student filmmakers, Frank said they were "amazed by the quality of film created by students," which "are all superb and give viewers a chance to experience the terrific artistic talent of students." Zelson furthered the sentiment, saying he was “inspired by the talent, professionalism, and creativity shown by all who submitted to the festival.” Landow said it's "a really exciting process...engaging with their work," of which there was no shortage, and organizers received over 70 films for consideration. Faculty advisor Sabine Haenni gushed that "It's been heartening to see that despite the pandemic, we received as many excellent film submissions as usual."

Regarding the process of organizing the festival, Latella called it “rewarding” and said "We really worked hard to collaborate, even if we couldn't all be in the same room." Zelson pointed out that it is “a special opportunity, as few students are given the chance to exercise such agency, freedom, and autonomy towards putting together a diverse and inclusive expression of art.”

Everyone involved in organizing agreed that they "can’t wait for everyone to see the amazing work student filmmakers can do!"

Centrally Isolated Film Festival 2021 poster graphic, features a big 8 for the 8th anniversary and an isolated empty chair