Courtesy of YiHFF
The Yale in Hollywood Film Festival, or YiHFF, taking place from Dec. 2 to Dec. 4, will showcase works from a diverse range of filmmakers from the University.
All films shown in the festival include at least one Yale alumnus or current student in a writing, producing, directing or acting capacity. One of the YiHFF’s goals is to include younger, diverse Yalies in cinema. In light of recent social media movements like #OscarsSoWhite and Time’s Up, which call attention to the lack of diversity among recipients of mainstream cinema award programs, Melissa Johnson, one the festival’s programmers, considered what makes good storytelling as well as whose story gets to be told.
“It was super important to set the tone for what we wanted the festival to be, and we wanted to include as many different voices as possible,” Johnson said. “We tried to make sure that we had enough people who represented the broad rainbow that is Yale.”
The festival’s director was Quentin Lee GRD ’93, who has been involved in producing, writing and creating both television and film projects since their time at Yale. Their television projects include “Boy Luck Club,” a self-proclaimed “gaysian” comedy series, and sci-fi comedy feature “Comisery.” During his time at Yale, Lee encountered difficulties when they first began making films.
“I came from a background in which Asian films were really hard to get noticed. On top of that, I’m LGBTQ+,” Lee said. “I started filmmaking when I just got to Yale in 1993 … I tried to organize my first screening at [Yale’s] Asian American Cultural Center, but it was getting some pushback because it was a gay and Asian short film … But I kept trying and eventually broke through.”
Since its inception two years ago, YiHFF has strived to present a wide range of narratives in film. Being both LGBTQ+ and Asian, Lee said that “diversity has always been important” to them and Kevin Winston ’91, president and founder of Yale in Hollywood.
This year’s jury features a diverse set of members, ranging from actress and creative Sara Gilbert to filmmaker Kristina Yang ’25, who participated in the festival last year with her documentary about the life of the Indigeneous Taiwanese artist Yosifu. The films were selected from applications advertised by the Yale Alumni Network, and several of the films were written by or starred current Yale students.
Ris Igrec ’23 is featured in the festival program; their short film “Uncommon Application” will be shown in the dramatic shorts program.
“Uncommon Application” was co-created with Igrec’s best friend from high school, Stella Wunder.
“It follows a high school senior who is under a lot of pressure from her community and friends and mother to go to a prestigious college,” Igrec explained. “She ultimately decides she will have to con her way in and has to deal with the personal consequences.”
Many of the other shorts and features touch on topical ideas regarding the pandemic, coming of age and societal pressures in the age of COVID-19.
Another goal of the festival is to connect alumni and students in the film industry. According to Lee, the festival is a “good opportunity to reach out to the broader Yale communities,” especially given its online format and universal accessibility.
This aspect of the festival is particularly useful for the small film community at Yale. Igrec noted that Yale student filmmakers lack “one unifying, big organization that everyone who is into film is a part of.”
Yet Igrec added that the lack of one cohesive organization can have its own benefits. “[The Yale film community is] not competitive; everyone’s just excited,” they said.
The excitement and emotion that goes into filmmaking was also present in the festival’s selections. Johnson said she was moved by “Lane 1974,” one of the two feature films in the festival. It details the coming of age story of a young girl on a commune in the California countryside, and stars Yale College first year Sophia Schloss ’25. Among Johnson’s other favorites are “When the Music Stops,” a documentary about the struggles of adolescence during the pandemic.
Johnson had one last message for artists at Yale, especially those who don’t see themselves on the silver screen: “Keep creating … There’s a lot of talent to be mined.”
The Yale in Hollywood Film Festival will air online starting Thursday, Dec. 2 at 8 p.m. EST through Saturday, Dec. 4.