Students Win Top Prize at Film Festival

On Friday, Feb. 27, Merli Guerra ’09 and Zehra Nabi ’11 shared the Best of Festival award, at the 15th Annual Five College Student Film Festival for their works Synchronic and Feminapella, respectively. This was the first time Mount Holyoke students received the Best of Festival prize and it was also the first instance in which the award was shared.

The Five College Film and Video Festival, founded in 1994, is an annual event which screens original films by Five College students. A 10-member student jury and Five College film faculty organize the festival. Carolyn Engel ’09 and Sarah Wentworth ’11 represented Mount Holyoke on the student jury. The student jurors advertised the festival, ran two prescreening in order to narrow the submissions from approximately 25 to 60 films and, along with faculty members, voted on the winners.

Of the 11 awards handed out on Feb. 27, Guerra’s and Nabi’s pieces received five total awards. Guerra’s film was awarded Best Dance on Camera and Best of Mount Holyoke, while Nabi received the Best Documentary prize.

Both Nabi and Guerra took their first production classes last semester. “I didn’t even know how to turn a camera on,” said Nabi, describing her first experiences in a beginning video production class at Amherst College. Guerra, a dance major, felt overwhelmed her first day surrounded by film studies majors. “I thought that maybe this was a mistake,” said Guerra. “But Jenny [Perlin] made the class so accessible and she made me feel that I could bring whatever I wanted to class.”

Despite their inexperience in filmmaking, Nabi and Guerra were excited to explore the medium and they both found film to be the best way to combine their various interests.

Nabi, who is self-designing a media studies major, has a background in studio art and writing. After taking a first-year seminar on media, she became interested in filmmaking and specifically, news media. For Nabi, documentary filmmaking is her major interest because it combines her interests in art, writing and media. She described Feminapella as “my quest to find a funny female a capella group.” The five-minute documentary is a lighthearted look at feminism and gender relations.

Guerra’s passion for choreography and dance influenced her film. “Film seemed like a new medium I wanted to try,” said Guerra. Synchronic is a five-minute piece that merges film and dance through a layering of images. The film is also one part of Guerra’s senior dance project, which explores dance and projection through three different mediums: installation art, live performance and film.

For Nabi and Guerra, the outcome of the film festival was beyond their expectations. “I hoped something would come out of it,” said Nabi. “Best of Documentary was really good, but Best of Festival was beyond my expectations.” Guerra called the experience surreal and overwhelming. “I was completely thrilled and content that my film was even shown. I was hoping for Best Dance on Camera, but I wasn’t expecting the rest.”

Published: Mount Holyoke News
March 5, 2009

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