Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Saturday, June 15, 2024
The Observer

The best of Notre Dame's 2023 Student Film Festival

Christina Sayut | The Observer

Notre Dame’s Film, Television and Theatre students put Sundance to shame with the 34th annual Notre Dame Student Film Fest last weekend. With a diverse group of work — ranging from documentaries to dramatic shorts — this showcase demonstrates the creativity and wit of the Notre Dame student body. Working within the constraints of the semester, FTT majors rose above expectations and blew away the audience with “Lily.” All the films this year were fantastic — we just don’t have space to review them all. Kudos to the budding filmmakers at Notre Dame! 

Image sources: courtesy of Ted Mandell and the FTT program

Sew Loved (Abby Urban, Liz Maroshick)

In this heartwarming documentary about a local non-profit, “Sew Loved” shines a light on how sewing and quilting have uplifted marginalized and underserved women in South Bend. Sew Loved was founded in 2012, and has lifted women out of poverty (via industrial sewing classes) ever since. A woman has been going to Sew Loved for about ten years. Through the charity’s generous supply of sewing machines and fabrics, she has been able to create quilts for her family to remember her by. – Claire Lyons, Associate Scene Editor

Image sources: courtesy of Ted Mandell and the FTT program

Waiting For Buffalo (Grace Beutter, Aidan O’Malley)

Editor’s Note: Aidan O’Malley serves as the Managing Editor of The Observer.

“Waiting For Buffalo” is an extremely affecting glimpse into life on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. The film follows two Oglala Sioux men who are transporting buffalo into a pen on the reservation, with historical clips and information slides providing a greater context on the destruction of buffalo and the condition of the Sioux people. The two, we learn, are inextricably bound. The buffalo were intentionally eliminated as they were a crucial food source for Native Americans. The buffalo themselves are shown as both powerful and peaceful, racing by the camera as ferocious beasts and loitering in the pen as simple animals. It is hard to ignore tragedy when we see them, and the same is true of the Sioux people. The moment when the two men discuss selling buffalo calves to supplement the tribe’s income is devastating. As they stand alone in desolation, beside a skeletal pen, the suffering is impossible to evade. It's unspeakable. “Waiting For Buffalo” is an exceptional confrontation with one of this country’s greatest ongoing tragedies. – Ayden Kowalski, Scene Writer

Image sources: courtesy of Ted Mandell and the FTT program

Butterfly (Ryan Lin, Sen Li)

In “Butterfly,” a girl considers her life through choice and chance. After receiving a job offer from one of the best consulting firms in the country, she must decide to either accept or decline the offer. Accepting the offer means a prestigious job and a life with her boyfriend. However, it also means she must move away from her aging grandmother. This choice is examined through the flip of a coin, yet the result is never revealed and is ultimately negligible. After a montage reflecting on the outcomes of either decision, she meets herself on the edge of a lake. No matter what decision the protagonist makes, notes her double, she has a strong sense of duty to her family and will end up returning to aid her grandmother. “Butterfly” pinpoints the experience of making tough life decisions. It highlights how the forces around us push us to choose and how our values affect our reality. – Anna Falk, Scene Writer

Image sources: courtesy of Ted Mandell and the FTT program

To Dust Ye Shall Return (Hank McNeil, Ryan Vigilante, JP Spoonmore)

Editor’s Note: Ryan Vigilante serves as the Photo Editor of The Observer and JP Spoonmore serves as the Video Unit Leader.

Friends make us better. They challenge us to run faster, focus on homework and clean our rooms. In the case of “To Dust Ye Shall Return,” a friend is a great influence. The only caveat is… you have to drink your friend’s ashes (like a protein shake).

After a friend tragically dies in a drunk driving accident, the protagonist fulfills his friend’s last wish: to be cannibalized. In a creative twist on the rising cannibalism horror genre, “To Dust” subverts cannibalism superpower lore into a comedic story about friendship and the power of a good protein shake. – Claire Lyons, Associate Scene Editor

Image sources: courtesy of Ted Mandell and the FTT program

Silent Steel (Michael Simon)

“Silent Steel” is a quiet examination of an artist at work, allowing us to meet metal sculpture artist Ivan Iler in his studio. This short documentary combines verite elements with footage of his previous and upcoming projects. The audience first meets Iler in his workshop, creating a human face out of metal, occasionally mumbling to himself and making jokes as the sound of cogs plays in the background. Through things said and unspoken, we cannot help but connect with his clear care and passion for his craft. There is a sadness to the film, as these sculptures aren't widely known, but there is great beauty in his process which is captured with striking visuals. In the end, we get to see his published work, as he demonstrates an interactive sculpture of an elephant set in a town intersection. “Silent Steel” is a rare opportunity to encounter an artist in their natural habitat, and it is magical to watch. – Ayden Kowalski, Scene Writer

Image sources: courtesy of Ted Mandell and the FTT program


Lily (Suneina Badoni, Chloe Stafford)

Imagine having 50 seizures a day. This was life for Lily Boylan who was diagnosed with epilepsy as just an infant. Her parents have tried everything: anti-epileptic drugs, CBD, special diets and a vagus nerve stimulator. Currently, she has two seizure-alert dogs and is in non-traditional surf and horse therapies. Nothing worked until Lily tried medicinal mushrooms. At the time of the documentary, Lily was 20 weeks seizure-free. “Lily” documents the young girl’s perseverance over adversity and the undying love of her parents. The film also advocates for medicinal mushrooms to be passed by the FDA. – Claire Lyons, Associate Scene Editor

Image sources: courtesy of Ted Mandell and the FTT program

Tension (Tianji Lukins, Isa R. Maiz, Suneina Badoni)

“Tension” starts with a typical disagreement between two roommates, but the conflict is quickly escalated through the use of voodoo. The doll is used as a torture mechanism, nearly choking and drowning one of the roommates. The voodoo doll raises the stakes of the conflict and raises the question of how far things will go before a resolution. It's a power struggle taken to the next level. – Rose Androwich, Scene Writer