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Sunday, March 3, 2024
The Observer

FTT department hosts 34th annual Notre Dame Student Film Festival

This weekend, Notre Dame’s Film, Television and Theatre (FTT) Department will host its 34th annual Notre Dame Student Film Festival in the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center’s Browning Cinema. 

Ten unique short films made by 20 different student filmmakers in Notre Dame’s FTT Department, both collaboratively and individually, will combine to put on a film festival open to the entire Notre Dame community.

The Film Festival will take place Friday and Saturday at 6:30 p.m. and Sunday at 7 p.m.

Audience members will have the opportunity to vote for their favorite film via text after each screening, and the student(s) who receive the most votes will be presented with an Audience Choice Award after the final screening.

Ted Mandell, professor in the FTT Department and the founder of the festival, emphasized that attending the film festival is a great way to support on-campus student filmmaking and also “understand that we’ve got some very talented, creative students here on campus.”

Mandell said he was impressed with all of the films the students have prepared but noted that picking out a favorite would be like “picking a favorite child,” even when looking back at all of the films that students have produced for the last 34 years.

Mandell said he can recall each and every film his students have produced since the festival’s origin in 1990. He emphasized that the filmmaking process is extremely collaborative, and “the faculty is just as invested in the process as the students.” 

Just last year, three documentaries that premiered in the festival went on to be played in both Los Angeles and New York Film Festivals. Mandell describes the festival as “a launching pad,” as alums have gone on to work for Saturday Night Live, Netflix, NBC and other entertainment companies. 

Suneina Badoni, a senior filmmaker participating in the film festival, collaboratively filmed, produced and edited two films: “Tension” and “Lily.” Going into her Notre Dame education, Badoni wasn’t initially set on the FTT program, but after attending one of the admitted student days and talking to the professor Michael Kackman at the FTT table at the majors fair, she decided to give it a try.

“Tension,” a film that Badoni put together with classmates Isa R. Maiz and Tianji Lukins in her Intermediate Film Production class, was especially exciting for Badoni to make because it is a horror film about the struggle between a voodoo doll and Badoni’s friend Matt, who acted in the film.

“It was really fun to shoot because we got to use a ton of cool equipment like huge rigs and lights that we checked out through the FTT office” Badoni notes. Badoni also teased a creative twist at the end of the film. 

Chloe Stafford and Suneina Badoni traveled to Los Angeles to film “Lily,” a story about a girl who uses non-psychedelic medicinal mushrooms to treat her frequent seizures. Courtesy of Ted Mandell.

“Lily,” Badoni’s second film, was entered into the festival with classmate Chloe Stafford in their Documentary Production course with Mandell. “Lily” is a documentary that features the daughter of Badoni’s uncle’s Notre Dame roommate, who suffers from epilepsy and has had up to 50 seizures a day since she was five weeks old. But since taking non-psychedelic medicinal mushrooms, Lily has been seizure-free for up to 20 weeks. Inspired by Lily’s story, Badoni and Stafford traveled to Los Angeles during fall break to spend time with Lily’s family and capture Lily’s story for their documentary. 

Reflecting on her time at Notre Dame, Badoni said she’s grateful for the close-knit relationships that she’s developed with the FTT faculty and students and everything she’s learned in her classes.

Liz Maroshick, another senior FTT student from Buffalo, New York, also contributed two films to this year’s festival: “Sew Loved” with Abby Urban and “For Better, For Worse” with Olivia Hsin.

Maroshick also produced “Sew Loved” in Mandell’s Documentary Production class, and the assignment was to simply pick a documentary topic “pretty much anywhere in the country,” but Maroshick and Urban “fell in love with” and decided to choose a women’s organization right here in South Bend that teaches underserved women in the local community general life skills, sewing in particular. 

Abby Urban and Liz Maroshick’s film tells the story of a local South Bend center that teaches underserved women how to sew. Courtesy of Ted Mandell.

Maroshick and Urban went to the center and filmed content for three days, developing close relationships with the women there. Maroshick says that it was a “super interesting experience and something that [she] definitely wouldn’t have gotten” had she not taken Mandell’s class. 

The second film that Maroshick is contributing to the festival is “For Better, For Worse,” a narrative fictional film made in her Intermediate Filmmaking class. The class tunes into students’ more creative sides, allowing them to write creative scripts and experiment with new things such as unique lighting. Maroshick describes the film as “film noir meets modern day Tinder… kind of like a ‘dating-goes-wrong’ situation.” 

Both Badoni and Maroshick encourage all students to attend the festival, as it is “a tangible way to show the Notre Dame community what the FTT students spend their time working on and what they are really passionate about.”

Tickets for the event can be purchased online at or in-person at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center ticket office. Mandell advises everyone to “buy your tickets online because the event will sell out fast.”

Contact Emma Vales at