College of Communication to hold student film festival celebrating diversity


Used with permission of College of Communication and Information. 

Emily Baehner

The College of Communication and Information is seeking student submissions for its first ever Kentucky Diversity Film Festival, where students will have the opportunity to be featured alongside award-winning documentary filmmakers Jean Donohue and Ashley York.

The college is looking for short films of less than 20 minutes in length, made by University of Kentucky students that highlight diversity, including but not limited to diversity of class, race, religion, sexuality, nationality, geography, and gender. The focus on films featuring diversity reflects the uniqueness and diversity that Kentucky itself possess.

“Though people may stereotype Kentuckians, there are many different individuals who live here and call this place home. We wanted to acknowledge and respect those differences while also highlighting them. It will be eye-opening for people who attend the film festival, but also celebratory—look at all these wonderful people in our area,” said Shannon Oltmann, an Associate Professor in the College of Communication and Information, and the College Diversity Officer, which led her to plan the film festival.

Oltmann said the idea for the diversity film festival came from one of the committee members and assistant professor Kyra Hunting who wanted to celebrate the diversity that can be found across the Kentucky Commonwealth.

“As the College of Communication and Information, we encompass all forms of communication and information, including films. Thus, the film festival is a natural fit for our college,” said Oltmann.

Oltmann said that in terms of the submissions, those in the college hope the students will be creative, bold, and inspired when they think about diversity, and will think about the unique stories they can tell and whose stories need to be told.

“What impact do you want to have? How can you inspire others? What would grab your attention and make you think, laugh, cry, or love? These are the sorts of questions that we hope students think about,” she said.

The College Diversity and Inclusion Committee, consisting of professors and staff members, will judge the films on five criteria: topicality, cinematography and audio, originality, editing and overall quality.

The best work will be screened on the final day of the festival, and the following will be awarded: $125 to first place, $50 to second place, and $25 to third place.  All the students selected to be a part of the screening will receive a certificate of participation and will get to have lunch with Ashley York, director of Hillbilly, winner of the Best Documentary Feature at this year’s Los Angeles Film Festival.

In addition to the April 16 screening of selected student films at the Worsham Cinema, the three-day festival will include a screening of The Last Gospel of the Pagan Babies on April 17 and a screening of Hillbilly with Ashley York on April 18.

Both Donohue and York are UK graduates and filmmakers who highlight Kentucky and Appalachian culture and communities. Donahue is the president of the Media Working Group, responsible for supporting independent media makers, and York teaches at the University of Southern California.

“These filmmakers have used their post-graduation success to bring attention to underrepresented communities, highlight new perspectives on Kentucky and to support other filmmakers,” Hunting said.

Submissions are due by April 1, 2019, at 5 p.m. by email to Shannon Oltmann at [email protected]. Students should be sure to include a subject line indicating it is a submission for the competition, and the email should include the film as an attachment or a link to the film on YouTube.