Penn State's Zeke Winitsky's Film "Coming to Berlin" Wins Study Abroad Film Festival

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We rolled out the red carpet for our Film Festival at VenueSIX10 in downtown Chicago on Wednesday, October 12th—all in benefit of IES Abroad scholarships. Zeke Winitsky (Penn State University | IES Abroad Berlin - Language & Culture, Summer 2022) took home the Grand Prize for the 8th annual Study Abroad Film Festival for his film "Coming to Berlin." The award was present by the Film Festival's host, Patrick Jager, an IES Abroad Vienna alum, Study Abroad Film Festival Juror, and award-winning media executive who led the development and production team behind such hits as A&E “Biography”, VH1 “Behind the Music,” and the creator of HGTVs mega hit “Fixer Upper.”

During Patrick’s celebratory opening remarks, he said: “I am here as a creative, and an alum to say thank you for being here and for celebrating these incredible students who are combining their passion for cultural exchange and storytelling…I am amazed by our Finalists and all those who submitted films this year. They have gone above and beyond to tell their stories through quality films, revealing their vulnerabilities to the world. Each story is uniquely different and equally captivating. We are lucky to experience these students’ journeys through their lens.”

Winitsky is a Penn State University Senior majoring in Film Production. He studied abroad with IES Abroad in Berlin during the 2022 Summer term. Winitsky’s film was awarded top honors based on votes by the public, who were able to watch the films online and vote for their favorite Finalist film.

Talking about his film, Zeke said: “’Coming to Berlin' is a film that was experienced as much as it was made. Being the descendant of a Holocaust survivor, spending time in Germany was complicated. There were moments when I felt a sense of closure and almost forgiveness, but also moments of guilt and conflict. In making this film, I meditated on my role as a Jew in America and in Europe. I wanted to illustrate my inner conflict and bring my personal dilemma to life."

The Finalist films were viewed and narrowed down to four Finalists by a prominent jury of directors, editors, producers and screenwriters, the majority of whom are either IES Abroad alumni or Film Studies faculty from the IES Abroad’s international Centers.

This year’s Film Festival runners-up were:

  • “standby” | Griffin King | London - Study London, Fall 2021 | Indiana University
    • A film with no dialogue propelled by emotion-inducing imagery and audio illustrating the main character’s journey inward
  • “Feel so Free” | Teri Newman & Stephanie Rivera | London - Study London, Spring 2022 | University of Rochester
    • A quietly powerful film in which queer people of color share their experiences in finding security and validation in their identities
  • “Not My Life” | Clarence Angelo Lilley | Milan - Business Studies, Fall 2021 | Indiana University
    • A film about how to embrace life when it feels like a movie and exploring what it means to be fully immersed in the present

Amy Ruhter McMillan, Senior Associate Vice President of Marketing and Founder of the IES Abroad Study Abroad Film Festival, says: “The IES Abroad Film Festival gives students a platform to share their authentic, life-changing, global experiences through their own voices. This is the first Film Festival after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, and it is difficult to put into words how meaningful that is for us as an organization and for our students. This year’s Finalists capture the spirit of study abroad and its importance better than we could have imagined. And the fact that we get to host our Festival in person again and share the night with our student Finalists, staff, schools, alumni, donors, friends, and family is momentous.” 

The IES Abroad Study Abroad Film Festival gave attendees the opportunity to engage with students, alumni, and the local film and entertainment communities, as well as to raise awareness about the power of study abroad. The red-carpet event showcased incredible students and their enriched educational experiences through their films, in addition to helping raise IES Abroad scholarship funds to send even more students abroad.

Through these visual journeys, the Film Festival helps increase the awareness of the benefits of studying abroad to new audiences, as well as helps raise IES Abroad scholarship funds to send even more students abroad. To date, the IES Abroad Film Festival has raised nearly $100,000 for IES Abroad scholarships

Over a span of eight years, more than 160 colleges and universities have been represented through 500+ student film submissions, all documenting the various experiences at IES Abroad study abroad and internship programs around the world.

This year’s Film Festival sponsors include: Barnes & Thornburg, LLP, Cultural Insurance Services International (CISI),, Lockton Companies, Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., Erika and Jon Maschmeyer, Emily Sachs Wong of @properties, Eileen and Jamie Buckley; as well as in-kind sponsors, Graphic Arts Studio (GAS), and More Visibility.

Congratulations to Zeke and all the Finalists! We're already looking forward to next year's event—submissions for the 2023 Study Abroad Film Festival are already open. Learn more about the IES Abroad Film Festival.

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