May 23, 2023

USC Student Films Win at Cannes

The American Pavilion’s Emerging Filmmaker Showcase at Cannes has become an important event for budding creators, particularly student filmmakers beginning their careers in the film industry. This year, films from the United States, Australia, Canada, Nigeria and Sweden competed in six categories: Student Short Films, Student Documentaries, Emerging Filmmaker Short Films, Emerging Filmmaker Documentaries, Emerging Filmmaker LGBTQ Showcase Films and an Alumni Showcase. The films must all be 25 minutes or shorter, with a jury of industry professionals choosing winners. USC student films were once again recognized as standouts among the 38 official selections in this “festival within a festival.”


Fathead, an experimental film created under the auspices of the School’s Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) was recognized as the Best Student Short Film. A dystopian story about children living in a place called Junkyard Paradise, the heroine, called Fathead, takes on a children’s army known as the ragamuffins, after they kidnap her beloved brother. More than 90% of the film’s locations were created virtually, and it was commissioned as a workshop for creating best practices in virtual production. Fathead, directed by c. Craig Patterson '20 and produced by Mitchell Graham Colley, Anthony Gaitros, Letia Solomon, Alexa Villarreal, and Brandyn Johnson, staffed a talented team of 122 USC alumni.

Still image of Fathead heroine, Fathead. 

The documentary, Waves Apart, took Best Student Documentary honors. It was directed by Josh Greene ’22, and produced by Aslan Dalgic and Ela Passarelli. Greene grew up as a passionate surfer in Orange County, California. His Bar Mitzvah was held at the San Clemente Surfing Heritage and Culture Center. Years later, his parents would tell him they had to rearrange the venue’s décor to move surfboards engraved with swastikas out of sight of partygoers. The boards, made in California, were among the first mass-produced surfboards ever made. Waves Apart, which was also nominated for a Student Academy Award, explores the sport’s antisemitic roots.

Waves Apart director Josh Greene '22 surfing in Southern California.

The following USC films were also in this year’s showcase:

Backlog is a drama based on the true story of a college student who tries for three years to get authorities to investigate her shelved rape kit, and becomes a key witness at a Senate hearing about rape kit backlog. It was written and directed by Jacqueline Elyse Rosenthal ’23 and produced by Robin Wang, Marian Cook and Josh Powell. 

De Closin Night is a drama that follows a Chinese theater student in America who loses her first role due to her accent, causing her to become determined to lose it by any means necessary. It was directed by Shicong Zhu ’20, written by Ella Rouwen Chen and produced by Ella Rouwen Chen and Brielle Yuke Li.