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Cherry Reel showcases and encourages the act of creation

On Friday, April 19, the Associated Students at the University of New Mexico Southwest Film Center held their ninth annual Cherry Reel Film Festival, showcasing 19 student-made films. This was the first time the event was held in Popejoy Hall.

This year's festival showcased films ranging from documentary, to narrative, to experimental, according to Rylee Norman, executive director of the Southwest Film Center.

Students, filmmakers and actors filled the seats of the auditorium to witness the screen light up with films made by fellow students and friends. After the screenings, nine films were awarded in eight categories, including Best Animation, Best in Festival and Best Directing.

The festival encourages all students from many different majors to submit their work.

Erica Fish, director of “Diana & the Dryad,” won Best Animation. Fish’s film, a mixed media piece, explored Queer characters and myth retellings. It also featured the relationship between art and the artist.

“I want to make it clear that I am not an animation student,” Fish wrote. “I am a film student first and foremost with a deep love and appreciation for animation.”

Cherry Reel offers students the opportunity to submit prior class projects or explore personal creative interests. This allowed for a diverse and unique experience for viewers.

“Sweltering Heat,” a narrative film directed by Nata Aguilar, won Best in Festival.

The film was voiced entirely in Spanish and set “somewhere far below the U.S. Border,” according to the Cherry Reel Film Breakdown. It tells the story of a man whose “life falls apart after having stolen money from his employer,” the breakdown reads.

“I wrote (“Sweltering Heat”) because I was bored during the summer (and) I wanted our stories to be told. Our stories are valid,” Aguilar said.

The films had the audience laughing, gasping and crying.

“Pipe Dreams,” a film that shares the story of a Chinese man’s sacrifice for his children, shared a closing image of an acknowledgement to director Asiana Lee’s father for giving up his dreams so that Lee could pursue her own. The film won Best Directing.

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Several films, such as “When the Grief Sets In” by director Wren Hartley, explored modern political and social issues. This was an experimental multimedia film that explored transgender grief and resiliency through poetic prose and various art forms, such as embroidery.

Bryant Staff, director of “Diary Entry 204,” and winner of Best Experimental, explored heartbreak through the narration of a past diary entry – one that showcased emotion and vulnerability. 

Cherry Reel provides students with the opportunity to dive deeper into the world of acting, directing and screenwriting without boundaries or barriers.

“When you’re Black and Queer in New Mexico, you’re read a certain way. So it was nice to try and break that mold, and be recognized for breaking them,” Staff said.

Karina Bolaños is the Culture Editor at the Daily Lobo. They can be contacted at 

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