Courtesy of YiHFF
The Yale in Hollywood Film Festival, or YiHFF, which takes place December 2-4, will showcase work from a wide range of University filmmakers.
All films shown at the festival include at least one Yale alumnus or current student in a writing, producing, directing, or acting capacity. One of the goals of the YiHFF is to include younger and diverse Yalies in the cinema. In light of recent social media movements like #OscarsSoWhite and Time’s Up, which draw attention to the lack of diversity among the recipients of mainstream cinema awards programs, Melissa Johnson, one of the festival’s programmers, said examined what makes a good storytelling as well as the story to be told.
“It was very 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 we had enough people who represented the large rainbow that is Yale.”
The festival director was Quentin Lee GRD ’93, who has been involved in the production, writing and creation of television and film projects since their time at Yale. Their television projects include “Boy Luck Club”, a self-proclaimed “gay” comedy series, and the sci-fi feature “Comisery”. While at Yale, Lee struggled when they first started making films.
“I come from a background where Asian films were really hard to get noticed. On top of that, I’m LGBTQ +, ”said Lee. “I started making cinema when I arrived at Yale in 1993… I tried to organize my first screening at [Yale’s] Asian American cultural center, but there was a certain setback because it was a gay and Asian short film… But I kept trying and I finally broke through.
Since its inception two years ago, YiHFF has strived to bring a wide range of narratives to the cinema. Being both LGBTQ + and Asian, Lee said “diversity has always been important” to them and Kevin Winston ’91, president and founder of Yale in Hollywood.
This year’s jury includes a diverse set of members, ranging from actress and designer Sara Gilbert to director Kristina Yang ’25, who attended the festival last year with her documentary on the life of the native Taiwanese artist. Yosifu. The films were selected from nominations announced by the Yale Alumni Network, and several of the films were written by or featured by current Yale students.
Ris Igrec ’23 is on the festival program; their short film “Uncommon Application” will be screened in the short drama program.
“Uncommon Application” was co-created with Igrec’s best friend in high school, Stella Wunder.
“It follows a high school student who is under a lot of pressure from her community, her friends and her mother to go to a prestigious college,” Igrec explained. “She ultimately decides that she will have to fight her way and will have to face the personal consequences.”
Many other short films and reports address topical ideas about the pandemic, maturity and societal pressures in the COVID-19 era.
Another goal of the festival is to connect alumni and students of the film industry. According to Lee, the festival is a “good opportunity to reach out to the wider Yale communities,” especially given its online format and universal accessibility.
This aspect of the festival is particularly useful for the small film community of Yale. Igrec noted that the student filmmakers at Yale lack “a great unifying organization that all who love cinema are a part of.”
Still, Igrec added that the lack of a cohesive organization can have its own advantages. “[The Yale film community is] non-competitive; everyone is just excited, ”they said.
The excitement and emotion inherent in making a film was also present in the selections of the festival. Johnson said she was moved by “Lane 1974”, one of the festival’s two feature films. It details the story of a young girl’s coming of age in a rural Californian town and features Yale College freshman Sophia Schloss ’25. Other Johnson favorites include “When the Music Stops,” a documentary about teenage struggles during the pandemic.
Johnson had one final message for Yale artists, especially those who don’t see themselves on the big screen: “Keep creating… There is a lot of talent to be harnessed. “
The Yale in Hollywood Film Festival will air online from Thursday, December 2 at 8 p.m. EST through Saturday, December 4.