After a more than two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, California State University, Northridge’s Senior Film Showcase returns this month to shine the spotlight on Hollywood’s next generation of movie makers.
The showcase, which culminates years of study for the university’s senior-level film students, is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 14, in the Samuel Goldwyn Theatre at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, located at 8949 Wilshire Blvd. in Beverly Hills.
“This year marks our 30th film showcase, an occasion we had hoped to celebrate in 2020,” said cinema and television arts professor Nate Thomas, head of CSUN’s film option. “Our students, just like everyone, including those in the entertainment industry, had their lives disrupted by the pandemic. But they were still able to find ways to cinematically tell compelling stories that reflect the rich diversity of the communities they come from.
“Filmmaking has always been a ‘think-outside-the-box’ industry,” Thomas said. “The pandemic only reinforced that lesson for our students, who had to tap deep into themselves to find ways to tell their stories. I am incredibly proud of what they have accomplished. As their films demonstrate, they have the skills to tell those stories effectively. As members of the entertainment industry, they will add new voices and perspectives to those who already entertain and sometimes provoke us with their filmmaking.”
The host of the showcase will be director, writer, producer and CSUN alumnus Mark L. Lester, who graduated from the university in 1968 with a bachelor’s degree in political science. Lester is known for his high-action films that are also box-office draws. His directorial credits include “Commando,” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger; “Firestarter,” based on the Stephen King novel and starring Martin Sheen and a young Drew Barrymore; “Showdown in Little Tokyo,” starring Dolph Lundgren and the late Brandon Lee’ “Armed and Dangerous,” starring John Candy and Meg Ryan: and “Class of 1994,” starring Michael J. Fox.
Thomas noted that the films selected to premier in the showcase were completed during the pandemic.
“We wanted to make sure that, despite the pandemic, they still had an opportunity to show their films on a big screen before an audience that includes industry leaders,” he said.
The five student films selected for the showcase are:
- “Cuffed,” directed by Parker Caston, Jr., and featuring an appearance by Emmy, Golden Globe and SAG awards winner Sterling K. Brown. The film is about two young Black high school boys who get caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Although they escape the police, freedom does not last long.
- “Hot Latin Nights at the Granada,” directed by Franco Vidal. The Granada, a nightclub owned by the famed salsa singer Tony “El Tío” Lopez is closing down. El Tío’s nephew had no intention of attending the closing night, until the girl next door asks him to save the last dance for her. Now all he needs to do is learn how to salsa dance.
- “A Beautiful Sin,” directed by Ahmad Jack Almazeedi, tells the true story of a young couple in love in Kuwait City. Sara and Adam get engaged, but then one comes out as transgender. How will their love survive as they face conflicting religious beliefs, and social norms in a region of the world that does not accept the concept of LGBTQ+?
- “El Mozote,” directed by Jasmine Galdamez, is the tale of a mother and her two children whose lives are interrupted when their small village is invaded by Salvadoran soldiers carrying out a gruesome plan during El Salvador’s civil war in the early 1980s.
- “A Mas No Poder,” directed by Ruben Fuentes, is the story of young criminal, who, in anticipation of his daughter’s birth, takes desperate measures to provide his family with a better future. His decision to betray his childhood friend puts his life at risk.
For more information about the showcase, call CSUN’s Department of Cinema and Television Arts at (818) 677-3192.
CSUN’s Department of Cinema and Television Arts, housed in the Mike Curb College of Arts, Media, and Communication, has an international reputation for producing dedicated and talented entertainment industry professionals who recognize the value of hard work as they learn and continue to perfect their craft. The department currently enrolls nearly 1,700 undergraduate students and 30 students in its graduate screenwriting program. Its alumni work in all aspects of entertainment media, from writing, producing and directing to manning cameras and having the final say in what project is made. The Hollywood Reporter and Variety have regularly ranked CSUN among the top universities in the country for cinema and television arts education.