As leading movie directors from around the world captured top honors at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, aspiring filmmaker and UNL film studies student Aliza Brugger had her moment in the French Riviera sun.
Brugger’s first work as a director, a seven-minute film called “The Pursuit of Happiness,” was among those screened at the international film festival. It was one of two films directed by UNL film studies students at the annual film festival. Collin Baker's eight-minute film, "Over Forgotten Roads," also screened.
Brugger and Baker are the first two UNL students to have a film screened at Cannes. Several thousands of short films are submitted each year for consideration by the festival; Brugger’s was one of 31 selected for screening through the American Pavilion, the center of activity for the American film community at Cannes.
UNL's Wheeler Winston Dixon, professor of film studies and English, described the Cannes selection of Brugger’s film as a “distinct honor.”
Brugger's film is about a series of people who attempt to obtain happiness in unobtainable ways. The film was show to an audience of about 50 people at Cannes. Brugger said it garnered "pretty good reviews" from those attending.
“The most common response . . . was that it was an ‘interesting way to tell a story,’ which made me very proud because the way in which a story is told is very important to me — almost more important than what the film is about,” Brugger said.
Brugger and Baker were two of four UNL film studies majors who were chosen as interns for the festival. The others were Thomas Peterson and Alannah Kennedy. UNL theatre major Taylar Morrissey and hospitality, restaurant and tourism management Stevie Pospishil also served as Cannes interns, with Gina Fe Causin, assistant professor of nutrition and health sciences, serving as a faculty mentor. The American Pavilion provides internships for students enrolled in film, culinary, event/hospitality management and business programs.
A native of Albion, Brugger is studying sociology, English, and theatre along with film studies. She hopes to make films that will spur people to take action against social injustice. She hasn’t yet decided whether to graduate a semester early in December and head to Los Angeles to pursue a film career or postpone her graduation until May so that she can complete a minor in human rights or ethnic studies. Her summer plans include working for Al Jazeera to edit documentaries and attending an international conference for activist filmmakers in Chicago.
“My ultimate goal is to connect with people and to connect people to other people by using film as a conduit,” she said.