Arts & Culture News

Pegasus Film Festival, the Nation's Longest Running Student-Run Festival, Returns May 30

A crew of students prepare a shot for the short film Crush Me , one of the finalists in the student-run 2020 Pegasus Film Festival.
A crew of students prepare a shot for the short film Crush Me , one of the finalists in the student-run 2020 Pegasus Film Festival. courtesy Pegasus Film Festival
Every aspiring filmmaker has to start somewhere, and events such as the Pegasus Film Festival give them their first chance to share their vision with the world.

"Young people are inspiring," says Niloo Jalilvand, the founder of the Pegasus Film Festival. "They are vulnerable and willing put their heart and soul into their work."

The Pegasus Film Festival, founded in 2015, is the longest running, student-run film festival in the country. Every year, the film screens the work of young and aspiring filmmakers who explore deep themes in a variety of genres and mediums. The seventh edition of the festival kicks on on Monday, May 30, at the Angelika Film Center in Dallas.

Jalilvand says the festival grew out of a film club that she helped start while she worked as a math teacher for the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing Arts. The club members organized the first film festival that led to the creation of the Pegasus Media Project that oversees the Pegasus Film Festival.

"My goal was to provide opportunities for students not to do work that is meaningless," Jalilvand says. "I feel like one of the struggles with students is the stuff kids have to do just to get grades, and I always try to have opportunities to not just do that."

The festival has grown over the years even through the pandemic, when the gathering was forced to go virtual. Entries come mostly from North Texas, but this year has attracted entries from outside the state and even the country.

"We look for innovative and thoughtful films, films that are important to the students and in the last few years, social justice has been a common theme," Jalilvand says. "This year's festival in particularly is really talking about mental health, COVID and loneliness, feeling isolated, feeling abandoned by the adults. Some of them are very thought provoking."

Some of the entries on the film festival's schedules include Prism, a film made by co-directors Hanna Le and Jake Kerstine about a teenager's mental struggles to deal with the loss of a close friend at a very vulnerable moment in his life. Other shorts include Seeing in Color, a dramatic movie shot in black and white on 60mm film by director Janelle Frazier, about a young African-American photographer who explores some honest themes and feelings about race and acceptance through the lens of her artwork.

“SEEING IN COLOR” Trailer from Janelle Frazier on Vimeo.

Other entries get into the sillier side of storytelling with animated shorts like the horror comedy Peanut, a claymation film about an accountant who makes a horrifying discovery in a mundane and familiar place, and Fish Fish Bish, a pencil-drawn cartoon by Katherine Li and Christine Yan about a big-eyed fish's journey from a fish bowl to the frying pan.

"I make films to sort of express myself, and I want to bring awareness to certain topics that should be put on," says Le, who's also the festival's social media manager. "It's really an amazing artform because it combines so many other types of art like writing, animations and music, and I enjoy all types of art."

Working on her films and with the festival helps students like Le make connections to professional filmmakers and other industry experts who can help get a foot in the door even before they step into a college or their first job.

"I've definitely learned a ton about marketing and social media and these tactics to help promote brands," Le says. "On top of that as a part of Pegasus, I've learned a lot about the film festival process. So it's really cool because even though my films got screened at other festivals, I didn't know how they work, so I got a look at the insider process."
An unassuming accountant named Tim is the protagonist of an animated, horror comedy short film called Peanut made by high school student Mayra Estrada for the 2020 Pegasus Film Festival. - COURTESY PEGASUS FILM FESTIVAL
An unassuming accountant named Tim is the protagonist of an animated, horror comedy short film called Peanut made by high school student Mayra Estrada for the 2020 Pegasus Film Festival.
courtesy Pegasus Film Festival
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Danny Gallagher has been a regular contributor to the Dallas Observer since 2014. He has also written features, essays and stories for MTV, the Chicago Tribune, Maxim, Cracked, Mental_Floss, The Week, CNET and The Onion AV Club.