Short films allow directors to find their voice and experiment with complex themes.

The Maryland Filmmakers Club and its semesterly film festival aim to help students do just that. On Tuesday, the club showcased a collection of nine short films, with a total run-time of one hour and 48 minutes.

Held in the Hoff Theater, Maryland Filmmakers partnered with Veritas, another short film club at this university, and the cinema and media studies department to hold the event. At the end of the festival, an award ceremony was held.

The festival began with “The Lucid Dream,” a psychological thriller directed by Shaunak Patil, a sophomore management major. The short film centers on a psych ward patient suffering from extreme paranoia due to a recurring monster in her dreams. The only characters are the patient and the doctor, who is played by Patil. There is a deep sense of isolation in the film as the protagonist struggles to escape both her fears and the monster.

Veritas also produced a film for the festival called “Spectral Reflections,” directed by Matt Yackulak, a senior cinema and media studies and immersive media design major. Yackulak’s film plays off of the typical horror film premise of a group of friends snooping around a home rumored to be haunted but adds a spooky and creative twist.

Compared to other films, “The Lucid Dream” and “Spectral Reflections” had amateurish acting. Though the portrayal of fearful emotions was spot on, the delivery of lines felt too scripted and unnatural.

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Junior cinema and media studies major and Maryland Filmmakers’ future president Ilana Maiman joined the club after transferring to this university in the fall 2023 semester. She became a board member this spring, working as the secretary and social media manager. 

Maiman’s film, “The Girl With The Cigarette,” won Best Screenplay. The film presents the relationship between Miriam, her photographer husband Avi and the titular girl. Maiman decided to leave the film open to interpretation and not tell the audience how to read the piece.

“You’ve Got Ants” by Julia E. Cooke, a senior information science major, is as hilarious as it is puzzling. The film’s trigger warning simply read: “ant.” Unlike the other films, “You’ve Got Ants” is an animated piece that left me speechless. I never knew that an ant could be so terrifying.

A crowd favorite was “The Real Bros of the Apocalypse.” In the style of reality television, the film features five roommates and takes place three weeks after a zombie outbreak. 

“So, there’s a massive horde of zombies outside, I can’t get on Tinder and now we’re out of beer. This just went from an unfortunate situation to a natural fucking disaster,” Todd, one of the roommates, said during a confessional, encapsulating the film.

Director Joe Masterman, a senior mechanical engineering major, perfectly combined comedy, action and brotherly friendship in the longest film of the festival, spanning nearly 30 minutes. The film also impressively executes graphics and special effects of the undead and blood splattering. 

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The most powerful film of the festival was Rob Lloyd’s “See You Around.” Lloyd, a senior cinema and media studies and philosophy major and the president of Maryland Filmmakers, called the film a “portrait of suicidality.”

“See You Around” received three well-deserved awards, one of which being Best Original Music. The background music perfectly mimics the loud and unbearable thoughts the main character experiences. It demanded the audience’s attention and brought everyone to a silence.

Lloyd’s impeccable camerawork led him to also win Best Direction and Best Cinematography. Intimate camera perspectives emphasized the seriousness of suicide awareness. Certain shots further tied into the idea of mental health, with the inclusion of a character wearing a crewneck that says “Positive Mental Attitude” and a “Feeling hopeless?” sign displayed on a rooftop.

“See You Around” tied with “The Real Bros of the Apocalypse,” which also received three awards: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor and Best Lead in a Comedy Film.

If there is one thing I learned from this festival, it’s that you do not need two hours to make an entertaining movie or create a fantastic plot. The student directors showcased in the film festival truly put their creativity to the test and crafted short but wonderful works.