From April 18 to April 20, the Yale Film Society will host the fifth annual Yale Student Film Festival in the Whitney Humanities Center.

Josh van Biema ’20, who serves as the co-director of the festival alongside Lily Weisberg ’21, has witnessed the festival’s growth throughout his time at Yale. Since the fall of 2016, the number of films submitted for presentation at the festival has more than doubled, increasing from around 700 submissions to 1,500, he said. The Film Society’s selection committee, led by Programming Director Filip Sestan ’20, selected 23 of the 1,500 films to screen.

“I’ve been involved with the festival each year I’ve been here, and each year it gets better,” van Biema said.

This year’s festival will also feature a screening and masterclass led by professional filmmaker Giorgio Ferrero and a discussion with Stefani Saintonge and Yvonne Michelle Shirley, two members of the New Negress Film Society.

On Thursday, Ferrero, who is known to incorporate virtual reality into his work, will teach a masterclass at 4:30 p.m. in the Whitney Humanities Center. Unlike all the other events, which are open to the public, the masterclass is reserved for those who registered in advance. Ferrero will discuss how to make a feature film with a small budget and staff.

Aidan Swift ’21, who plans to attend the masterclass, said that he signed up for the course to hear insights from a current professional filmmaker.

“I am … just hoping to glean some useful information,” Swift said.

The public events will begin on Thursday at 6 p.m., when the Film Society will screen short films made by nine Yale undergraduate filmmakers over the course of two hours. The next event, a screening of Ferrero’s “Beautiful Things,” will begin at 8 p.m.

On Friday at 1 p.m., the festival will continue with experimental films. The program includes eight films of this genre, among them professional filmmaker Josh Tuthill’s “Black Dog,” which was released in 2017 and premiered at the 2018 New York Film Festival. Later in the afternoon, screenings of nine narrative short films will take place.

Attesting to the festival’s growth, van Biema expressed joy about the diversity of films submitted for presentation and the acclaim of the films that will be screened.

“We have submissions from India and Bangladesh and China and Iran and Pakistan and the U.K.,” van Biema said, listing only some of the countries from which the committee received submissions. “It is a little exciting this year that some of our films have premiered at some really big places.”

Van Biema added that one of the films the event will screen premiered at the Cannes Festival: “Normal,” a narrative short directed by Hanna Mironenko.

Van Biema said that he is most excited for the event starting Friday at 7 p.m., when Saintonge and Shirley of the New Negress Film Society will screen several of their shorts and hold a discussion with the audience. According to its website, the New Negress Film Society “is a core collective of black women filmmakers whose priority is to create community and spaces for support, exhibition and consciousness-raising.”

“Our whole team is pretty excited about this,” van Biema said. “This was a pretty big get for us, they’re in the process of really blowing up.”

On Saturday, documentary shorts will begin running at 4 p.m. and the festival will conclude with a block allowing for senior filmmakers to present their thesis films. Though he is only a junior, TJ Noel-Sullivan ’20 will screen his film in the senior thesis block due to his experience and coursework. Noel-Sullivan said he is glad to screen one of his films in the historic auditorium at the Whitney.

“It is a really great opportunity for students to come out and see some of the best work students in the class, including myself, put into these films,” Noel-Sullivan said. “When I first started, the screening was just in a classroom, so the opportunity to screen in the Whitney Humanities Center is really cool.”

Van Biema said that he is glad to help the careers of student filmmakers. He added that he is happy to do whatever he can to help student filmmakers publicize their film.

The Yale Student Film Festival is sponsored by the Dean’s Discretionary Fund for the Arts and by Films at the Whitney.

Kofi Ansong |