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Friday, December 08, 2023

Courtesy of Rohan Pemmasani

Cinemadison’s festival highlights the creative visions of student filmmakers

Cinemadison, a University of Wisconsin-Madison film group, put on a student film festival in the Marquee Cinema at Union South last week that was a celebration of what it means to be an artist burdened by the role of being a student. 

The festival featured four films: “St. Abby,” directed by DePaul University student Matthew Shariff; “Faces of Void,” directed by Cinemadison president Rohan Pemmasani; “The Helper,” directed by Indu Konduru; and “Fragments,” which was also directed by Pemmasani. 

Each film was beautifully crafted, and the attention to detail that each frame received was astonishing. It’s easy to forget that they were made with little to no budget. 

Pemmasani during the festival spoke on the importance of the art of filmmaking, especially student and amateur filmmaking. 

“There's no stakes involved at all, so we can truly just say what we want,” Pemmasani said. 

That creative freedom and ability to not have to cater to a broad audience allows the director's whole vision to be reflected in the film.

“It's a unique voice because we’re so limited with what we have,” Pemmasani added.

Although Pemmasani only filmed in the Madison area — more specifically, his friend’s apartment — “Faces of Void” received critical acclaim at film festivals both domestic and international. 

“Faces of Void” is a brilliant story that demonstrates the importance of human connection when you lose sight of morality. It follows a phone scammer making a connection with a potential victim. The film is a wonderful commentary on modern life, exploring not only the absurd nature of scams but also the relevance of relationships formed without face-to-face interaction. 

The film festival was not exclusive to UW-Madison students. Matthew Shariff is currently a third-year student at DePaul University in Chicago. He directed the film “St. Abby,” which takes inspiration from French new wave and auteur cinema to craft a brilliantly funny tale about a date gone wrong. 

Shariff spoke during a post-screening Q&A about the pride he holds in finally seeing his work grace the silver screen. He highlighted the importance of seeing your hard work and effort come to full fruition in an environment surrounded by people who respect the time and effort it takes to craft a piece of art.

As the evening came to a close, Cinemadison board member Alan Zarycki spoke about how tight-knit the filmmaking community is despite the size of their productions.

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”It gives me a sense of hope and freedom that whatever I do could maybe translate into something big,“ Zarycki said. “You can literally do anything that your heart desires because, at the end of the day, everybody is by your side.”

Zarycki said this makes him and other student filmmakers optimistic for the future of student filmmaking at UW-Madison. 

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