Campus News

'That’s a wrap!' UKY Student Film Festival concludes, awards 7 filmmakers

Photo of UKY Film Festival Awards
Photo of the UKY Film Festival Participants

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 15, 2023)  University of Kentucky students, staff and film enthusiasts gathered in the Worsham Cinema on April 28 to celebrate the creative works of student filmmakers.  

The UKY Student Film Festival returned to campus in collaboration with the Office of Student Organizations and Activities (SOA), which is housed in the Office for Student Success

All UK students enrolled during the 2022-2023 academic year were eligible to participate in the festival. This year, 31 student films were submitted and reviewed by the selection committee.  

Films are critiqued on technical execution and scored in five categories: visual elements, audible elements, story, performances and overall execution. 

The awards, sponsored by Courage Media, included Best Fiction, Best Non-fiction, Best Documentary, Best Animation, Best Super Short, Best Performance, Honorable Mention and Audience Choice. 

Angel “Ayo” Varillas, a senior in the College of Fine Arts, was excited to showcase two animated films. His hand-drawn film “Blue Day” won Best Animation. 

“Being back in an atmosphere like this, after being holed up in my studio for a couple years, was exhilarating,” Varillas said. “It felt like I was finally back where I belonged — enjoying the art and process of filmmaking.”  

“The UKY Film Festival is really a special night. It’s so incredible to be able to gather with students from across all majors and years and see what kind of films they have been working on — from narrative to animation to documentary,” Paul Allison, a junior in the College of Communication and Information who received Honorable Mention for his film “Kintsugi,” added. “It’s both an awesome experience to see my own film on the big screen and inspiring to see what others have created.”  

Green Hearts,” directed by senior Patrick Wantz, took home the top honor for Best Non-fiction. The category represents self-expression and the exploration of visuals. Wantz has participated in the UKY Film Festival for the past three years and recently graduated with a degree in marketing and management. He also earned a certificate in international film studies. 

This year’s Best Fiction film also received the Best Performance award. “Feller in the Cellar,” directed by Jackson Dunavant, garnered the most points overall. Dunavant graduated in December 2022 with a bachelor degrees in business administration and media arts and studies. 

A total of eight awards were presented at the conclusion of the showcase, and the full list of winners are as follows: 

  • Best Animation ("Blue Day"): Angel “Ayo” Varillas, College of Fine Arts 
  • Best Documentary ("Answer the Bell"): Grant Grubbs, College of Communication and Information 
  • Best Non-Fiction ("Green Hearts"): Patrick Wantz, Gatton College of Business and Economics 
  • Best Fiction and Best Performance ("Feller in the Cellar"): Jackson Dunavant, December 2022 graduate from the Gatton College of Business and Economics 
  • Best Super Short ("Last Kiss"): Mathias Acree, College of Arts and Sciences 
  • Audience Choice ("Faded Perception"): Jonah Hildreth, College of Communication and Information and Kennedy Baldon, College of Communication and Information 
  • Honorable Mention ("Kintsugi"): Paul Allison, College of Fine Arts and Gatton College of Business and Economics 

Many of the filmmakers utilized resources at the Media Depot to create their films. Located in the basement of the William T. Young Library, the Media Depot is a hub for creatives. Spaces available for students include: podcast rooms, voice over recording booths and a green screen. The depot also features an experienced staff to offer Adobe Creative Cloud support.

The films from this year and past events are available to view at 

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.