Student film festival starts new annual tradition 

The Through the Student Lens Film Festival—the first and only film festival created for CSU students and alumni—got its start just as the pandemic forced festivals and events all over the world to go virtual. Thankfully the festival’s founder, Teaching Associate Professor and professional filmmaker Usama Alshaibi, chose to persevere. With the help of dedicated student volunteers and staff, Through the Student Lens (TSL) hosted its first in-person premiere on April 21, 2022 in Eddy Hall. 

Three photo collage. Photo 1: an audience in a theater listens to a group of students speak. Photo 2: a man speaks at the front of a theater with the Through the Student Lens logo up on the screen behind him. 3: An audience sits in a theater, looking at a screen featuring the Through the Student Lens logo.
Program Director Usama Alshaibi emcees the first in-person Through the Student Lens Film Festival on April 21, 2022

Student filmmakers gathered, collected awards, and answered audience questions at the free public screening. “We hope with our first in-person premiere,” festival Student Director Zara Allen said, “that this film festival will be an annual tradition at CSU.” 

From the classroom to the silver screen 

After years of programming film festivals in Chicago and then teaching a beloved film production class at CSU called “The Personal Lens—Making Media” (SPCM 360, which is being offered as a summer course this year July 11 – August 7), festival Program Director Usama Alshaibi decided to start TSL because he was so inspired by what his students were producing in class. “I wanted to create a film festival that could showcase those films,” he said.  

“I’m always blown away by the power of these films” screened at TSL, Alshaibi said. Students and alumni “are making work that is funny, vulnerable, weird, and difficult. It reinforces why we need a film festival just for CSU students.” 

Watch the entire film festival here, and see the winners below: 

2022 winners

  • Best of Fest Award: Dear Zoe: A Love Letter by Forrest Nelson (Senior, Interdisciplinary Liberal Arts major) 
  • Audience Choice Award: Clean Up Crew by Dominic Dakovich (Senior, Journalism and Media Communication major) 
  • Audience Choice Runner-Up: Life Abundant by Georgia Davis (Senior, Human Dimensions of Natural Resources major) 
  • Audience Choice Runner-Up: Invisible by Aubrey Johnston (Senior, Communication Studies major)

2021 winners 

  • Audience Choice “Before” Award: So, What’s the Situation? by Zachary Fountain (20, Journalism and Media Communication B.A.) 
  • Audience Choice “Before” Award: Anxiety Art by Evan Bode (20, Communication Studies B.A. with minors in Sociology, English, and Film Studies) 
  • Audience Choice “After” Award: Numb by Anna Tomka (Senior, Communication Studies major)
  • Best of Fest “Before” Award: Ok by Chiara Garland (’19, Journalism and Media Communication B.A.) 
  • Best of Fest “After” Award: She Is by Julissa Hernández Sánchez (21, Journalism and Media Communication B.A. with minors in Ethnic Studies and Film Studies) 

About the festival

Through the Student Lens (TSL) is the first and only film festival created for CSU students and alumni, thanks to the support of the Department of Communication StudiesACT Human Rights Film Festival. TSL features documentaries, short films, animated films, personal narrative, experimental work, and more. CSU students and alumni submit their films for consideration from November through March, and films are then officially selected for screening at the festival by a group of programmers and staff in April. 

The 2022 TSL Film Festival was made possible by the work of Program Director Usama Alshaibi; Student Director Zara Allen; Graphic Designer and Social Media Manager Kendall Constable; Student Programmers Anna Tomka, Grace Weintrob, and Daniela Driscoll; and ACT Human Rights Film Festival Managing Director Beth Seymour. 

Follow the festival on Instagram or like them on Facebook for more news and opportunities to submit films to future festivals.