Columbia geeks, look out. The Columbia University National Undergraduate Film Festival is back again, providing an outlet for creativity and experimentation. Founded in 2004 by Calvin Sun, CC '08 and Brian Foo, SEAS '08, the festival attempts to establish a stronger film base here at Columbia. The pair has succeeded in creating what has become one of the most widely anticipated events on campus.
The nonprofit festival accepts submissions from all over the country, approximately 10 of which are selected as finalists. On April 5, these 10 to 12 short films will be shown at Roone Arledge Cinema in Lerner Hall. This year, well over 50 films have been submitted for review already, and the deadline for submissions is not until the first week of March. Historically, films have been submitted from high schools and colleges across the country. Calvin, Brian, and their associate judges vet every single film, narrowing down the list to the most outstanding works.
Despite the festival's humble origins, CUNUFF quickly earned credibility in the independent film world. Schools known for their film programs—including NYU, USC, UCLA, and Northwestern—all have a dominant presence in the pool of submissions. In only its fourth year, CUNUFF has already been recognized by a handful of film industry luminaries, several of whom have made cameos or even served as celebrity judges in past years. Some past CUNUFF judges include filmmaker Thomas Ikimi, principal editor and assistant editor of numerous award winning films like Casino and The Aviator, MTV VJ Loulan Gardner, and Columbia Executive Director of Communications Leonard Cox, to name a few.
CUNUFF offers cash prizes ($400 for best picture, $100 for best direction, and $50 each for best screenplay and audience choice), and the opportunity to display original work at one of the most prestigious auditoriums in New York City. "CUNUFF works for the students by the students," Calvin Sun said. "The staff, comprised completely by undergraduate students of Columbia, does all the fund-raising, reviewing, and publicity with a strong commitment to showcase the best works of young filmmakers. In the past four years, we've grown from a small regional festival into a nationally recognized event, nicknamed by some to be the 'Sundance Film Festival' of undergraduate filmmaking. It's pretty exciting stuff."