The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

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DePaul students celebrate a year’s worth of films at the 18th annual Premiere film festival

Alyson Wong
Jason Fennell and Emily Delacruz host the 2024 Premiere Film Festival.

Student filmmakers’ varied taste was on display throughout the night at DePaul’s 18th annual Premiere Film Festival on May 31 at the Music Box Theater. The festival, which is run by students from Wendy Roderweiss’ Live TV class, screened over 17 films in total, all up for awards that evening.

Gripping live-action dramas like Briana Clearly’s “Bloed Susters” and timely documentaries like the Filmmaking Collective’s “Chronicle of a Summer Day” were played in conjunction with Evan Carter’s animated music video “Witchcraft,” where cartoon dogs take over the world to the tune of “King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard.” If nothing else, Premiere is always bound to show the diverse vision that DePaul students have. 

Beginning in 2006 on the Quad in Lincoln Park before transitioning to the Music Box Theater in 2011, Premiere has long been a showcase of DePaul students’ creative abilities. Jackson Coates, an undergraduate senior at DePaul and director of “Pastel,” which saw eight nominations at the Festival, has seen the event evolve over his tenure. 

“I remember when I first went to Premiere my Sophomore year, I could only think about how badly I wanted to be a part of the community,” Coates said. “By the time I was actually able to participate, the DePaul community had gotten so much more competitive. The scale and ambition of the films are night and day between my freshman year and now.” 

Hosts Jason Fennell and Emily Delacruz, both students at DePaul, strode across the stage at 7 p.m., with Delacruz wearing a nose piece and “sand walking” across the stage, a reference to the recent sci-fi hit “Dune.” 

As she wore a nose piece similar to that of a ‘stillsuit,’ Delacruz quipped that the suit’s ability to recycle water would keep her hydrated throughout the show. 

The night went on as Fennell and Delacruz presented the first slate of films, which featured Torin Jade Ives’ documentary “Call Them Athletes,” an incisive look into how the dance teams at a number of major collegiate institutions (including DePaul) are expected to perform regularly with often little to no help from the universities themselves. The film would go on to win the Media for Social Change Award later in the night.  

That evening was Coates’ second directorial effort alongside co-director Manasi Ughadmathe, “Romeo and Juliet,” which tells the story of a young woman in Texas whom is sexually assaulted by an older man and must go through the torturous process of pressing charges in a system which devalues her voice. The film went on to win the Undergraduate Faculty Judges’ Award later on in the evening. 

Kimberly Spohn, the graduate directing student, whose film “Day With A Dick” won the Jury’s Choice Award, commented on her gratitude for the award. 

“One of the best parts was the audience’s reaction to the film,” Spohn said. “Knowing it resonated with people of all genders felt like a win in itself.” 

The film, starring Spohn herself, tells the story of a woman in advertising who wears a strap-on dildo for a day to see what it feels like to be a man. 

“WHAT DO YOU SEE,” directed by senior graduate student Qun Chi, was nominated for five awards and took home two: the Graduate Faculty Judge’s Award and the Best Experimental Award. Chi spoke about what she hopes people take away from the film itself. 

“Don’t be confined by your current perspective. As human beings, our viewpoints are often shaped by our background, the times we live in, and the space we live in,” Chi said. “However, it’s crucial not to judge things as simply right or wrong. Keeping an open mind is essential.”

Jackson Coates (center) stands with the crew of his film “Pastel,” including composer Ian Graham (far left) and cinematographer Karson Kane (next to Graham).
(Zachary Klein)

As the night wrapped up, Fennell and Delacruz finished off the show with a call to get out of the theater as fast as possible – it was a tight schedule and they’d gone slightly over their allotted time in the theater. The lobby swarmed with students and recent award-winners mingling with the jury, a collection of programmers from festivals like Tribeca Film Festival and the LA Shorts Film Festival. 

Coates finished out the night with his second award: the Voice and Vision Award for an Undergraduate, given to a student who shows tremendous growth and skill in their creative vision. Despite being in his final year, Coates still looks forward to what Premiere holds in its future. 

“To see your film at the Music Box is really something else,” Coates said. “I can only really imagine how far the program and Premiere will grow in the next couple years.”


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