Promotional Image Courtesy of the UNC Charlotte Film Club

This year’s Gold Reel Student Film Festival gave way to an evening of unpredictable brilliance and audacious filmmaking as students from across the globe offered up their best work in front of and behind the camera. From visual journeys across the stars of an animated world to a puppet-human romance, the fourth annual Gold Reel Festival lent out inspiration to spare while also delivering a powerful cluster of student filmmaking.

Before I highlight the winners of the evening, I’ll first run through some of the most influential and memorable films from each of the five categories:

Best Animated Film: 

While some of the films in this category gave off more obvious themes of identity and indifference — like Parastoo Cardgar’s “Icky,” which envisioned society as a community of Rubik’s cubes all similar, one individual breaking through as a cube without the same color on every side — the animated feature that stood out to me most was Marina Belikova’s “Astronaut’s Journey.” Literally painting a landscape of love and friendship through an astronaut’s journey from planet to planet, the film presented a deeper meaning beyond its masterful cinematic brushstrokes.

Best Narrative Film:

This category offered up a gracious handful of intriguing projects ranging from the strange and ambiguous to the straight-forward and satirical. While Valentina Casadei’s “All About Emily” presented an interesting portrait of race and unlikely friendship in the form of an emotional drama, it was Michael Chan’s engrossing comedy film “Marc Chung Protects His Address” that stole the show. Teeming with a similar satirical wit of that of Adam McKay and Edgar Wright, Chan’s elaborate comedy managed to keep a simple narrative flowing without a hiccup.

Best Experimental Film:

Unconstricted by the bounds of a single narrative, the category of experimental film lent the imagination to multiple tangents of creativity. While Casey King’s “Inked” and Barjrush Kajtazi’s “Without a Good Title” were pretty blunt with their overarching storylines, I favored the more sporadic filmmaking in UNC Charlotte’s own Kempson Bellington and his film “The Curious.” Experimental horror at its best, at least on a college budget, Bellington’s feverish visual storytelling presented a final product that begged to be seen multiple times.

Best Documentary Film:

Taking aim at some of the most glaring issues of sustainability and other topics, the documentary category offered some of the most diverse films of the evening. The one that stood out most to me had to be Miach-el Juane’s portrait of Toranto, Canada in “Mindscapes.” A stylized tribute to the bustling city, full of as much diversity as New York City. While “Mindscapes” didn’t advocate for anything specific, it did give people an interesting peek inside Canadian society and beyond.

Best Music Video:

Among the numerous rap/hip-hop videos and kaleidoscopic, trip-inducing projects set to music of this category, it was ultimately Lorene Yavo’s animated narrative for the song “Alive” by Amarante that stole my heart. With entrancing yet minimal visuals that aided the somber tone of the song, there was no doubt that this one would be a stand-out.



Best Screenplay – “Blood Money” – Jess Woodworth

Best Animated Film – “Icky” – Parastoo Cardgar

Best Narrative Film – “Before My Eyes” – Paula Castillo

Best Experimental Film – “Caravelle” – Dagmara Kunecka

Best Documentary Film – “Swipe” – Chance Saller

Best Music Video – “Alive” – Lorene Yavo

Audience Award – “Marc Chung Protects His Address” – Michael Chan


The 2017 Gold Reel Student Film Festival would not be possible without the efforts of the UNC Charlotte Film Club, and the countless help from the marketing, event, and online staff. For more information about the Film Club, contact Jessica Weissman at