Students move annual film festival online

As Cornell University shifts to remote instruction due to COVID-19, this year's Centrally Isolated Film Festival (CIFF), Cornell’s annual student-run film competition celebrating student filmmakers, will also move online. Selected films will be available for free streaming between April 24 and May 1 at

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 submit short films to be judged by industry professionals. This year, submissions were selected from Cornell, Ithaca College, Binghamton University, Brown University, Syracuse University, Rochester Institute of Technology, Pratt Institute, and Columbia University. Cash prizes of $200 are awarded to first-place winners in four categories: Narrative, Documentary, Experimental, and Audience Choice. This year’s panel of jurors includes Leslie Raymond, executive director of the Ann Arbor Film Festival; Daniel Fermín Pfeffer, screenwriter, director, and producer; and Kelly Gallagher, filmmaker and assistant professor of transmedia at Syracuse University.

Student organizers Ella Ekstrom ’20 and Ruby Que ‘20, along with faculty advisor Sabine Haenni, associate professor of performing and media arts, are working tirelessly to ensure that this year’s festival is produced in an online capacity. For many student filmmakers in the department, CIFF has been a defining aspect of their careers at Cornell. “I’ve been involved with CIFF since my freshman year, and I can proudly say that we are doing our best to showcase emerging student filmmakers' original work,” said Que. “Everyone on the selection committee has worked so hard for the past few months, and we are beyond excited to bring these truly fascinating films to the public.”

“As CIFF enters its seventh year, there is no better time to be called the ‘Centrally Isolated Film Festival’ than right now,” said Ekstrom. “It truly is remarkable that we are able to transform this unexpected situation into a new opportunity to connect with one another." Thanks to the online setup, viewers can support student filmmakers from their own homes and even participate in the voting. "Like all art, film is transcendent—it allows you to connect with others across space and time," said Ekstrom. "While we are separated by quarantine, what better way to celebrate that which connects us all than with CIFF 2020?”

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		 Ruby Que '20 and Prof. Sabine Haenni