Hotchkiss Film Festival Celebrates 10th Anniversary


Students watch finalist films in front of Harris House

From a documentary-style film featuring Cooper Roh ’22 to a surreal horror short by students from the Shri Ram School in India, the 15 films selected for the Hotchkiss Film Festival ranged across genres, themes, and international borders.
At 9 p.m. on Saturday, May 22, members of the community gathered on Harris House lawn to watch the films selected for the 10th annual festival. The films were chosen from schools all across the world, including India, South Africa, and Colombia. In honor of the Festival’s 10th anniversary, four Hotchkiss alumni were invited as guest judges – Keith Boynton ’00,  Richard Ledes ’74, and Hotchkiss Film Festival co-founders Carla Frankenbach ’12 and Bryan Ryu ’13. Boynton and Ledes came to film through theatre while Frankenbach and Ryu both attended film school, USC and NYU respectively. Gardiner said, “COVID has allowed us to bring in judges who would otherwise not be able to come together. For example, Frankenbach is currently in LA, but working in Zoom has allowed her to still participate in the Festival as a judge.”

Planning for the Film Festival began months before the screening. Luke Gardiner ’21 reached out to schools previously involved in the Festival and also invited over 200 Round Square schools to participate for the first time. In response, the Film Festival received a record number of 52 submissions. Gardiner noted that the pandemic had an effect on the types of films entered in the Festival, saying, “There were a lot of horror film submissions (because it was a horrific year), along with some very good investigative documentaries.” Ben Weiss ’21, whose film won an honorable mention for best performance, added, “I loved how so many people from different schools all around the world were interested and passionate [for the Film Festival]. I’m proud [for] all the filmmakers that were able to create, share, and be a part of this wonderful tradition”

Gardiner and Ms. Ann Villano, the advisor of the Hotchkiss Film Club, reviewed the submissions and selected 15 pieces to be screened at the Festival, including those made by Weiss, Sada Schumann ’22, Max Lindner ’22, Margie Bowen ’22, and Harry Morelli ’23. Contrasting to the more thrilling horror films, Weiss’s film stood out as more emotional. His reflective, fiction film focuses on a high school boy who struggles with self love and being able to share his own feelings with the people he loves, such as his mother. 

Weiss began the production of his film during last fall in his film class. With the help of a few students in his class, along with Ms. Wendy Levithan, head of the classical and modern languages department and instructor in French, who acted as Weiss’s “mom” in his film, Weiss was able to successfully produce his final piece. Weiss recalls the production experience, “[For this film,] I had to write the script, and then I acted, directed, and edited. It was a bit of an organization, but it wasn’t very difficult. [I especially] had a great time with filming.”

Weiss says, “I love the arts [and] I want to put my passion and my emotions into that and connect to people. So if [I were to give] any advice, it would be to keep with it. If you are passionate about something, don’t be afraid to explore that passion. If you fail, learn from it. Try again and have fun, that’s all you can do.”

After such a successful year, students and faculty all across the world look forward to what next year’s Film Festival may bring to the screen.


Film Festival 2021 Awards:

Grand Jury Prize:  The Story of Tino Santiago by George Fink (Marvelwood School, Connecticut) A documentary reveals how a local town rallies to aid a man being held by ICE.


Best Narrative: Inliminal by Arnav Sharma (The Shri Ram School, India) The bathroom door locks and chaos ensues.


Best Cinematography: The El Boys by Hugh Holmes (Choate Rosemary Hall, Connecticut)

A film featuring boys, the summer and a little bit of attitude.


Honorable Mention for Best Performance: His Bright Future by Ben Weiss ’21 (The Hotchkiss School)  A high school boy comes to terms with his relationship with his mother.


Honorable Mention: What Hides in the Red Light by Harry Morelli ’23 (The Hotchkiss School)

With one flick of the light switch, all hell breaks loose.


Quotes have been lightly edited for clarity.