Film festival supporters were tense waiting to see who would win one of the biggest awards of the night. And just as the organizer of the Guelph-Humber film festival was about to reveal the winner, the fire alarm went off.

“It was like the ultimate cliff-hanger, it felt like I was in a soap opera,” said Megan Hutchison, Vice President of GuHu TV who was one of the organizers for the event, which was held in GH 111 at the University of Guelph-Humber.

Despite that interruption, Hutchison believed that the festival was an overall success and shined a light on the creativity and talent the school has to offer.

“We had 10 diverse and unique films from both Guelph-Humber and Humber that weren’t afraid to delve into the darker issues in life.”

“Our three judges were so blown away with all the films that we ended up with three best feature winners which was totally not the case last year,” Hutchison said.  One of those winners was Cal Campos, a second-year media studies student, whose film Normal chronicled a journey of transition.

“I really wanted to make a film that highlights some of the things I go through on a daily basis but also normalize how it feels to be transgender,” said Campos.

“It meant a lot to me that something that was so personal and something that I worked so hard on was recognized for best feature by one of the judges, especially when there was so many other films to consider.”

Film studies professor and festival judge Natalie Evans was not only impressed with Campos but with all of the filmmakers.

“A few of the films moved me to tears which really surprised me. They dealt with a lot of difficult issues and presented them in such a reflective and respectful way,”  Evans said.

Some of these issues included sexual abuse, depression and alcoholism which can be seen in the film Purpose by Ashley Star and the film Down and Out by Ryan Suknandan.  Purpose went on to win best director and tied for best feature.

Gave Lindo, the executive director at Reelworld Film Festival, believes film is the perfect way for young people to explore such emotionally heavy issues.

“It can often be challenging for people to start conversations about issues such as suicide and sexual abuse, but through the medium of film, it is possible to tell stories that explore these themes,” said Lindo.

“Festivals like this one are important because they provide opportunities for young people to be engaged in storytelling. Student-run festivals are incredibly vital to creating the next generation of storytellers.”

First-year media studies student, Nicole Oziel is one of those storytellers. Oziel won the award for best cinematography for her film, To 14-Year-Old Lola.  The film is about a university student writing a letter to her younger self, urging her to not make the same mistakes she did that led to her depression.

“I really enjoy creating these damaged characters and bringing their stories to life on screen.  I’m hoping to become a filmmaker one day and I thought doing this film and exposing it to media professionals and everyone at the festival would be a step in the right direction,” Oziel said.

This was the second festival and Hutchison is hopeful that the momentum for the Guelph-Humber film festival will continue for many years to come.

“All I can hope for is that in next year’s film festival we see even more films and that students continue to let their creativity shine.”