Alumni Spotlight: Films by Chilean graduates screen at the Columbia Film Festival

MFA alumnae Constanza Majluf, Natalia Luque, and Cecilia Otero, are the directors and producer of “My Independence Day” and "So they Say."

May 08, 2023

The Columbia University Film Festival (CUFF) is an annual event that highlights the thesis work of students and recent alumni from the School of the Arts MFA Film Program. This year, in its 35th version, the festival will have its largest version yet, with 43 films screening in person as well as online between May 11 and 15. Among them are “My Independence Day” and “So They Say,” directed by Chilean alumnae Constanza Majluf (MFA’20) and Natalia Luque (MFA’22) respectively.

“My Independence Day” is set in 1988 Chile and follows seven-year-old Manuela, who dreams of winning the “best dress” contest in the commemoration of Independence Day at her school, while her 16-year-old brother Gabo protests in the streets against the dictatorship. Director and actress Constanza Majluf is also an award-winning screenwriter who has worked in the film industry for over fifteen years. Based on true events, her upcoming film “Pink Desert” is the story of the first gender reassignment surgery, that took place in Chile in the early 1970s. “My Independence Day,” her MFA thesis project, will be screened on Saturday, May 13 at 5 pm.

A part of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Newcomers Program, Natalia Luque’s short films “On My Own” (2019) and “The Virgin, The Old Lady, The Journey” (2020) have screened in over 50 International Film Festivals. The short film “So They Say” (2023), her thesis project, is set in a small Chilean town where abortion is deemed illegal, and a fetus is found floating on a lake. As a result, a single mother and saleswoman’s values and morals are put to test when she discovers the culprit to be one of her young female clients. The film will screen on May 13 at 3 pm.

Both films are co-produced by Cuban-Chilean director Cecilia Otero (MFA’22), who is also a member of BAFTA’s Newcomers Program. “Piola,” the first movie produced by Otero, won the Best First Feature along with other five prizes at the Guadalajara International Film Festival in México, and was acquired by Netflix.

The festival will open on May 11 with Screenwriting Night at Lenfest theater, an evening of dramatic readings and an awards ceremony highlighting the top scripts from the festival’s screenplay competition, and will close on the 15th with Awards Night at the Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center with a screening and awards ceremony to acknowledge the winning films.

All screenings will be on campus at the Lenfest Center for the Arts and online through the Eventive platform. Information about schedules and tickets is available here.

*A second version of the festival will take place between June 26 and 30 in Los Angeles.