2019 Film Festival Grand Prize Winner Shows How Lemons Can Always Become Lemonade

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IES Abroad
November 8, 2019

It was truly like a night at the Oscars...but of study abroad films. 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. It was quite an evening to remember at this year's IES Abroad Study Abroad Film Festival


Study abroad is great, even when your experience is overwhelming, emotional, or unexpected. That could probably best summarize the underlying theme of the Finalist film selections for the 6th Annual Study Abroad Film Festival. Hosted by film critic Richard Roeper, the Festival took place at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Chicago on Thursday, November 7th in support of IES Abroad scholarships.

And the Award Goes to....

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 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).

Chase is from Plymouth, Minnesota and David is from Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. The two students, even though they’re both Badgers, had never met before connecting while at 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 pulled out their cell phones to read off a prepared acceptance speech, in which they included a very sweet thank you to Carina Hopper, their IES Abroad Paris BIA Entrepreneurship & Start-Ups professor. 


Another Record-Breaking Year for the Film Festival

This was a record-breaking year for the Film Festival with a total of 99 films submitted for consideration. 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.

Additionally, this year IES Abroad had the most sponsors in the Film Festival’s history, and raised more than $45,000, which will provide 20 students with IES Abroad scholarships!

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

A Journey Through the Evening

After walking the red carpet, audience members watched four of the Semi-Finalist films:

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

Richard hosted a Q&A panel with the filmmakers to get insight into the creative process behind their films, including how they were edited and shot, as well as the different ways each of the filmmakers incorporated music into their films.


Dr. Mary M. Dwyer, Ph.D., President and CEO of IES Abroad was awarded the Standing Ovation Award, which honors 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 Chase and David's film Les Cinq Mois-The Five Months as the 2019 Grand Prize Winner. Their film received the most votes from the public, and their win earned them a $1,500 cash prize and golden Academy Award-esque trophy.

Juror's Praise

Here's what some of our jurors had to say about Chase and David's film:

"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 below!

Thank you to all of our 2019 Film Festival jurors, sponsors, volunteers, board members, committee members, alumni, IES Abroad staff, and of course, our student filmmakers. We hope to see all of you next year!

Learn more about our Study Abroad Film Festival, see past year’s winning films, and find out how to be a part of the 2020 Festival! Interested in studying film abroad? Check out all of our Film Studies or Film Production programs and courses around the world.

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