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Documentary created in Medill class to be shown at Cannes Film Festival

March 10, 2015 | By Anna DiStefano (WCAS17, IMC Certificate)
Still from the film “Girl with a Movie Camera"

This May, Northwestern student Roberto Drilea (SOC16) will be at the Cannes Film Festival, connecting with industry professionals as a producer with two official accreditations. Drilea is traveling to the renowned event because he, along with Sanya Mansoor (BSJ16) and Tali Jona (WCAS16), created the documentary “Girl with a Movie Camera” in 10 weeks for a Medill class.

The film was the project of a Medill class taught by Assistant Professor Brent Huffman, an international documentary filmmaker. During the class, students produce their own short documentary.

For Drilea and Jona, Huffman’s class was their first exposure to Medill. They said the learning-while-doing curriculum provided a “really comprehensive introduction to documentary filmmaking, both from a technical as well as a conceptual standpoint.” And Huffman was often there for guidance.
“I work very closely with the students over the 10-week course,” Huffman said. “A lot of that time is spent outside of the classroom talking about ideas, dealing with issues and editing the documentaries.”

The short film examines the work of cinematographer Lauren Guiteras (SOC14), who is currently working in the film industry in Los Angeles. The film was shot behind the scenes of the annual Niteskool Music Video, a Northwestern collaboration between musicians and filmmakers. The filmmaking team explored the challenges women face breaking into the male-dominated industry of cinematography.

Drilea said the film is meant to not only showcase this issue, but to “show the potential for things to change.”

Both Guiteras and Drilea had experience and connections with film production from their involvement with student group productions and majoring in radio/television/film through Northwestern’s School of Communication. Huffman’s class was an opportunity to use those skills to create a complete film.

Guiteras, the film’s subject, said her time at Northwestern provided “a great outlet for artistic discussion, inspiration and peer review.”

That same social culture is what Drilea has to look forward to experiencing at Cannes. “Girl with a Movie Camera” will be shown in the Short Film Corner throughout the 11-day festival, as filmmakers fly in from all over the world to watch each other’s pieces. The Short Film Corner was established in 2004 as a filmmaker’s hub with access to all the biggest industry players. Screening at such a prestigious event is remarkable for a film that started as a class project, an honor none of the students involved had anticipated.

Drilea is interested in lengthening the short film into a feature-length film and further exploring documentary filmmaking, which Huffman said is a great way to tell powerful stories.