Boston Shorts Fest
Credit to Weiye Li & Boston Shorts Fest

Three Emerson College students had an idea to start a film festival as a way to showcase student filmmakers around the Boston area. When coronavirus forced everyone into quarantine, they had a choice to either let their months of prepping go in vain or to find a way to make it happen; they chose the latter. Boston Shorts Fest is a fully student-owned virtual film festival that premiered July 10th and will available to screen until July 17th, with all funds going to support racial justice.

David Sabot and Nicola Carbini met how most student filmmakers do: on set doing menial work. “We met on a music video set. We were both associate producers, but on student films more often than not, that just meant we were carrying boxes of burritos from Chipotle to set,” David mentioned as Nicola chuckled in agreeance. That summer, David and Nicola found themselves interning on the set of a Lifetime Christmas movie. And instead of remembering the experience as the time when David had to clean manure off the director’s boots (true story), the two remember it as the time that they first began to really bond.

After officially deciding to produce the festival in 2019, Nicola got to work, reaching out to everyone he could. He joined student-filmmaker community groups on Facebook like ‘Emerson Mafia’ to promote the festival and ask for submissions. Emerson’s visual and media arts department also supported the festival by sending out emails and encouraging students to get involved. People from all over Boston were submitting work, even people within the Emerson community that the boys had never met. When it came time to start curating the festival, David and Nicola noticed themes among the submissions and selected films that gave the festival a natural cohesion. With the word out and submissions rolling in, all that was left to do was to secure a location. The festival was set to screen at Emerson’s Paramount Bright Light’s Theater right before COVID-19 hit New England, forcing the young filmmakers to cancel the event and pivot their festival plans.

Outside of David and Nicola being personally bummed out about the festival’s physical cancellation, they were also saddened that the community of student filmmakers they’d brought together, wouldn’t have a chance to showcase their work. David and Nicola were determined to make the festival happen, but they couldn’t do it alone, so they requested the help of their friend and fellow Emerson filmmaker Nicolás Chmielewski (Nico). Nico helped build the Boston Shorts Fest website and broadened the festival’s reach by contacting his friends outside of Massachusetts, encouraging them to submit their work now that the festival was taking place virtually. The festival began to take on a shape of its own, connecting filmmakers from all over the country just as we began to see the nation’s racial divide. David, Nicola, and Nico (say that three times fast) always imagined the festival being a charitable event. The boys initially intended to donate to the Coronavirus Relief Fund at the height of the global pandemic but chose to donate to the NAACP after the unjust murders of Breona Taylor and George Floyd.

Through our artistic efforts, we find it of paramount importance to give back to the community and help bring justice to the many innocently incarcerated people in this country and those who have unnecessarily faced the similar fates of Ahmoud Aubrey, Breona Taylor, George Floyd and hundreds more. We are committed to creating positive change and rooting out systemic racism. We want to empower people who need to be heard and help create a more diverse environment across all kinds of industries.

Boston Shorts Fest

Boston Shorts Fest will showcase 15 short films and feature filmmakers from different countries, cultures, and perspectives. The festival’s theme is dedicated to empathy and perspective, seeing from one another’s eyes. The screening starts July 10th on Boston Shorts Fest for $2.99, and 100% of the festival’s earnings will be donated to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Boston Shorts Fest Official Trailer

After months of research and hard work, the boys are excited to finally premiere the festival. When asked what advice they would give to students looking to start a film festival on their campus or at large, David advises students to include films that are unlike the “traditional festival films” and ones born from passion. Nicola would encourage students to “break your own boundaries,” reach out to other students, staff, and community leaders that could be used as a resource. After all, the Boston Shorts Fest wouldn’t have been possible without networking and the help of all who were involved.

In the fall, David and Nico will return to Emerson as juniors, Nicola, who graduated this May, is looking forward to producing an Emerson BFA film. During quarantine, the boys kept in touch via Zoom to work on each other’s scripts and new ideas, but they are most excited to get back together again to resume working on their first feature film.

Check out the titles and creators of the featured short films below, head over to Boston Shorts Fest to screen the festival.

Chassidy David, We Are Named for Our Ancestors

We Are Named for Our Ancestors is a short experimental film that explores pre-colonial and post-colonial imagery of the African diaspora. It uses imagery symbolic of the past and present to bridge the connection between unrest and peace. The protagonist represents many within the African diaspora who, at first, feel internal upheaval at their seemingly stagnant and distant relationship with their own history. Through embracing the anger born out of confusion they subsequently connect to the roots of history and gain the power of peace through knowledge.

David Sabot, A Long Way Home

The story of two high school friends reuniting after a year in the real world.

Nicola Carbini, More Bounce to the Ounce

The video features around thirty people having a good time dancing to a song my friend, Julian, and I chose one day. It’s intertwined with footage from all over New England.

Nicolás Chmielewski, Sube

A documentary about the beauty and humility of the talented street musicians who play in Buenos Aires subway.

Clay DeHart, Repression

“Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.” – Sigmund Freud

Phil Santoro, Love & Hold ‘Em

Love ‘n Hold ’em (in its original form) is a spoof on our life 15 years ago (before marriage and before kids) that is produced with sock puppets, in the style of a reality show. The LA Puppetry Guild 48 Hr film competition (along with being stuck at home, homeschooling our kids during the coronavirus pandemic) inspired us to create this episode. “In Quarantine” features our current life, trying to maintain our sanity.

Felicia Varlotto, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolfe?

A class project done for Emerson College’s Intro to Narrative Drama course. This short film acts as a creative experimental substitute to the introduction of the classic film, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.

Alex Hrisanthopoulos, Blaze

A young hitman finds himself falling for a woman he was assigned to assassinate…

Bakari JB , Society’s Ills

Bakari JB Music presents the X-Files sampled, hard hitting, thought provoking record Society’s Ills. Subliminally referencing different societal issues that take place in our business world, social media world and our street culture; does society ever see you for what you are? What governs how we are being viewed?

Lily Walkow, Welcome to the Dreamscape

Welcome to the Dreamscape is a 2D animated short about a girl, a dog, and a frog. When a newfound sense of change enters her life, 16-year-old Mae finds herself overwhelmed and exudes her frustrations on her video game as a coping mechanism, rather than facing her problems head-on. The film plays upon the theme of dealing with change in one’s life and the healthiest way to handle that — talking through your feelings.

Michael Olowu, Retina

When Awake is born, he takes you on a journey of his destiny to evolve through energy to find clarity in the world.

Sifan Liu, The Way Back

Going back to China, Sifan’s home, she documents and narrates the way back home through corona virus.

Ethan Soo, Haymaker

When a girl returns home to her traditional mother, she faces confliction with the older generation of living.

Abi Karl, Off Day

A young woman finds herself having an off day and tries to make it a better one.

Jaden Esse, Method Actors

Two young scoundrels try to get out of trouble using the only tool they have: stupidity.

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