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The First Annual Columbus Film Festival

by Jacob Rodriguez

Moderator Rafael Diaz, Fernando Fuentes, President Columbus Films, Moderator David Ulloa. Photo provided by Mr. Diaz

Cannes, Venice, Sundance. When you think of film festivals, these towering titles have historically been characterized as being influential nodes for modern culture and highlighting cinematic excellence and appreciation. They are the models that dictate our tastes in cinema and are the guides that help manifest our love and adoration of film culture. Their influences have branched out. They have inspired generations of youth to form the roots of an everlasting movement and traverse all demographic and geography.

Earlier this month, Christopher Columbus High School took the opportunity to become a model for cinema after hosting its very first Annual Columbus Film Festival where countless student films debuted. In this event, our Columbus Film department acted upon its commitment to contribute to film creation and appreciation in its unique way.

The festival took place at Landmark Theaters in Merrick Park, a wonderful venue that hosted students predominantly from Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach along with film entrees from New Jersey and even California. These student filmmakers were able to walk the red carpet and get a glimpse into the glory of what it is like to have their films shown on the big screen.

“There is nothing like seeing your film on the big screen with an audience”, Fernando Fuentes said, Columbus Films President, and festival participant.

While sponsors such as Beacon TV and Landmark Theaters were pivotal in making this event possible, it is Mr. Diaz’s vision of encouraging collaboration and good-hearted competition between student filmmakers that provided the real spark leading to the formation of the event.

“The main purpose of the festival is to encourage students to create films. To not be afraid to express themselves and make art”, Diaz said when asked what it took to put together a successful film festival.

More than talent, students exemplified the values of determination and drive through their participation in the film festival; and it worked out well for our Explorers. Out of 15 awards given, Columbus Films took home wins in the Best Actor category with Juan Laracuente ‘23 and Best Drama category being awarded to the film Last Call to Nowhere representing Columbus well in what could only be characterized as a highly competitive selection.

Apart from our Explorers various other schools were represented and performed exceedingly well, such as Brandi’s Epic 18th Birthday Bonanza by Anissa Acosta from Doral Academy which won Best Film, Best Short Short (Films under 1 min), and Best Editing along with Fitting In by Mark Leschinsky of New Jersey winning the Grand Jury prize.

The First Annual Columbus Film Festival was a grand success for student filmmakers and film culture alike as honest and unadulterated art was displayed by the next generation of filmmakers and hard work and determination were recognized in an environment of collaboration and competition.

Next year, Mr. Diaz and the Columbus Films crew intend to expand to an even larger scale by opening up submissions to the entire country and elevating the festival to a status of national acclaim. The future holds big things for Columbus Films, so keep a close eye and be ready to do your part in uplifting our student filmmakers.

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