The Visual Arts Program at Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts will present a screening of 17 short student films created in the fall semester courses “From Script to Screen” taught by Princeton Arts Fellow Afia Nathaniel; “Documentary Filmmaking” taught by Lynne Sachs; and “How to Make a Film” taught by Yaara Sumeruk. The screening, which is free and open to the public, will be presented on Wednesday, February 15 from 4:30 to 7:00 p.m. in the James M. Stewart ’32 Theater, located on the first floor of 185 Nassau Street. A reception will follow the screening.

film still from virtual destiny

A still from the film short It’s Virtual Destiny by JJ Onyeukwu, one of 17 student films to be screened at Princeton’s Lewis Center for the Arts. Film still courtesy JJ Onyeukwu

The student films range widely in genre — including narrative documentary, comedy, science fiction, experimental documentary, drama, and fantasy — and in their subject matter. One film is described as “a visual poem and meditation on the inner musings of a dog.” Another deals with the existence of traditional and millennial culture in today’s society for Asian Americans. One documentary is titled, One Nation Under Trump?, while another deals with a guilt-stricken freshman who runs over a squirrel while riding her bike back from class and flees from the scene of the crime.  In another film, a college student thinks she can rely on a series of lucky pennies to guide her decisions, until she realizes that the only way she will be happy is to make her decisions on her own.

Nathaniel’s course, “From Script to Screen,” focused students on the three major phases of cinematic storytelling: story development, principal photography, and post-production. Through class exercises, workshops, guest speakers, and critical evaluations of ongoing projects, students learned the importance of the script, visual design, subtext, the staging of action, and the value of collaboration.

In “Documentary Filmmaking,” taught by Sachs, students explored what relationships have the necessary friction to generate compelling films. Students entered into the world of nonfiction filmmaking, where production assignments, screenings, and seminar discussions pushed them to examine the formal, social, and political concerns within their lives.

Sumeruk’s course, “How to Make a Film,” introduced students to the basic tools and approaches for film production with digital media including writing, camerawork, sound, editing, and post-production. Through technical instruction and conceptual frameworks, students discovered their visual storytelling voice as filmmakers.

Afia Serena Nathaniel is the 2016-18 Peter B. Lewis Arts Fellow at Princeton University. She is a computer scientist-turned-filmmaker who “loves to push the boundaries of narrative filmmaking.” Her debut feature film Dukhtar (Daughter) premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2014 and was Pakistan’s Official Submission for Foreign Language Film at the 87th Academy Awards. The film has played to critical acclaim in over 20 countries and became the Critics’ Pick in New York and a People Magazine’s Pick of the Week. Nominated for the 2013 Gotham Award, Nathaniel has been awarded the Adrienne Shelly Award for Directors, the Ezra Litwak Award for Distinction in Screenwriting, and a Hollywood Foreign Press Association grant. She has taught at Columbia University’s School of the Arts and New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

Lynne Sachs makes films, installations, performances, and web projects that explore the intricate relationship between personal observations and broader historical experiences by weaving together poetry, collage, painting, politics, and layered sound design. Sachs has made over 25 films, supported by fellowships from the Rockefeller and Jerome Foundations and the New York State Council on the Arts. Her films have screened at the New York Film Festival, the Sundance Film Festival, and Toronto’s Images Festival. Her work has also been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney, Walker Art Center, Wexner Center for the Arts and other venues nationally and internationally. She was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2014.

Yaara Sumeruk has worked in multiple aspects of filmmaking, from directing to editing, production and marketing. Sumeruk adapted the play Ringo into a short film, which premiered at The Locarno International Festival, Switzerland. She served as creative director and editor on seven films for the U.N. General Assembly and also edited several short documentaries for The Malala Fund. Her wide-ranging experience with filmmaking includes a two-year stint as director of video production for Bond Strategy and Influence, where she edited trailers for filmmakers such as Spike Lee. Sumeruk has also directed and edited music videos and commercials, and most recently edited an hour-long special on democracy hosted by Alicia Keys called We Are Here. She’s currently in post-production on a documentary she directed in South Africa. She has previously served as lecturer in film at the University of Cape Town, South Africa.

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