2019 IES Abroad Study Abroad Film Festival: A Night at the (Study Abroad) Oscars

Five finalists at the IES Abroad Film Festival 2019

Thursday, November 7th was an evening to remember at this year's IES Abroad Study Abroad Film Festival at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Chicago. Attendees walked the red carpet, got their photo snapped by the paparazzi (ok, our photographer), and grabbed popcorn on their way to the theater to view a selection of films from our talented young filmmakers – all in support of IES Abroad scholarships. 

Study abroad can be full of unexpected moments both exciting and overwhelming. That probably best summarizes the underlying theme of the Finalist film selections for the 6th Annual Study Abroad Film Festival, hosted by film critic Richard Roeper. 

A Record-Breaking Film Festival

With 99 submitted films, this was a record-breaking year for the Film Festival. The films were viewed and narrowed down to the three finalists by a prominent jury of directors, editors, producers, and screenwriters, all of whom are IES Abroad alumni, film studies faculty from IES Abroad’s international Centers, and/or film industry experts.

Furthermore, this year IES Abroad had more sponsors than ever before and raised over $45,000, which will provide 20 students with IES Abroad scholarships!

Fun fact: Our Finalist Siyu Zhou flew over 7,000 miles from Hong Kong to Chicago, breaking the record for the longest distance traveled to attend the Film Festival.

Highlights of the Evening

Audience members watched four of the Semi-Finalist films, after walking the red carpet.

  • Lekker by Sarah Campbell (IES Abroad Cape Town, Summer 2019 | Catholic University of America) 
  • Numinosity by Emily Kauffman (IES Abroad London, Spring 2019 | University of Puget Sound)
  • Skate in the City by Victoria Bongard, Sam Christie & Peyton Krell (IES Abroad Barcelona, Spring 2019 | University of Rochester, Miami University)
  • Vienna-To Build A Home by Mohsin Waraich, (IES Abroad Vienna, Fall 2018 | Butler University)

After viewing the Semi-Finalist films, Richard Roeper introduced the Finalist films. Before viewing, Richard declared the films some of the best creative shorts he's ever seen—pretty high praise from someone who watches films for a living!

  • Come Alive by Siyu Zhou (IES Abroad Tokyo, Fall 2018 | University of South Carolina)
  • Dear Dublin, by Kirsten Mossberg (IES Abroad Dublin, Spring 2019 | University of Michigan-Ann Arbor)
  • Les Cinq Mois-The Five Months by Chase Devens and David Smith (IES Abroad Paris BIA, Spring 2019 | University of Wisconsin-Madison)

After the viewings, Richard hosted a Q&A panel with the filmmakers to dive into their creative process and get a better picture of what went on behind the scenes (how they were edited, shot, and how they incorporated music into their films).

During the event, IES Abroad President and CEO, Dr. Mary M. Dwyer, Ph.D., was awarded the Standing Ovation Award, an honor that celebrates an individual or group whose outstanding contributions have enabled us to provide a platform for students to share their study abroad experiences through film. Mary's devotion to the IES Abroad mission, continuous commitment to increasing aid, as well as her passionate support for the Film Festival are just a few of the reasons Mary is so deserving of this award.

The night ended on the moment everyone was waiting for: The announcement of the 2019 Grand Prize Winner: Chase and David's Les Cinq Mois-The Five Months. Their film earned the most votes from the public, and a $1,500 cash prize and golden Academy Award-esque trophy.

And the Winner is...

Chase Devens and David Smith’s (IES Abroad Paris BIA, Spring 2019 | University of Wisconsin-Madison) film Les Cinq Mois-The Five Months took home the $1,500 Grand Prize. Their creative and well-edited short is a delightful look at the less-than-delightful things that can sometimes occur when you study abroad (and how it all somehow ends up better than OK).

Both Chase and David hail from the Midwest, Chase from Plymouth, Minnesota and David from Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. The two students, even though they go to the same university, had never met before their semester in the IES Abroad Paris Business & International Affairs program in Spring 2019. They acknowledged this unique aspect of their creative process, "Our film is a testament to the endless possibilities that can be created when two people set a goal and leverage their strengths to achieve it." They both read from prepared speeches from their phones, in which they included a very sweet thank you to Carina Hopper, their IES Abroad Paris BIA Entrepreneurship & Start-Ups professor.

Juror's Praise

Here are some comments from our jurors about Les Cinq Mois-The Five Months:

"Perfect example of a compelling study abroad narrative. Very well written, created, edited, and directed." Courtney Spence, Founder of Students of the World & CEO of CSpence Group

"'Les Cinq Mois' explicitly states it wants to flip the table on typical study abroad films, and it certainly does so. It is creative, fast-paced, and fun." Leland L'Hote, IES Abroad Program Dean for Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Cape Town, Quito, Santiago, Multi-Location (Buenos Aires & Santiago)

"It does a great job of capturing the normal and often overlooked aspects of study abroad with an entertaining lens and I enjoyed the meta-moments satirizing the study abroad storytelling framework." Thamine Nayeem, Assistant Video Producer, Council on Foreign Relations


To hear more about Chase and David's inspiration behind the film, listen to this interview with Richard Roeper on WGN Radio Chicago, and be sure to check out their winning film.

We want to thank all of our 2019 Film Festival jurors, volunteers, sponsors, committee members, board members, IES Abroad staff, alumni, and of course, our student filmmakers. We look forward to seeing all of you next year!

Future Students Host University Staff