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UC Irvine’s Zotfest student film festival returns for 20th year

“Don’t Stop Us Now,” a UCI musical film project inspired by the movie “Bohemian Rhapsody,” will play at Zotfest on Monday.
(Courtesy of Zotfest)

Don’t stop them now, because come Monday night, members of the UC Irvine community are gonna have a good time when the university’s 20th annual student film festival, Zotfest, opens at the Irvine Barclay Theatre with the musical short film “Don’t Stop Us Now.”

The film, directed by senior Sophie Prettyman-Beauchamp and inspired by the Freddie Mercury biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody,” is the first of 10 student films that will be showcased at the Barclay. This is the third year the festival has featured an opening musical film but the first year it has been formally held at the theater.

Zotfest began in 1999 with the campus’s Film-Arts-Drama Alliance and is the oldest student-run film festival in the University of California system. The 2019 festival is directed by senior Sarah Brandenburg in coordination with Desha Dauchan, an assistant professor of film and media studies at UCI.

Brandenburg, who also was the student director for last year’s Zotfest, will be graduating from the university in a few weeks.


“I’ve been really interested in film festivals,” she said. “I saw there was an opening two years ago and didn’t know if I was going to get it, but I ended up getting it and was kind of thrown into hot water. But I’m really glad that I did.

“It’s really given me a lot of experience and I really have enjoyed doing it. But I can’t wait to pass the torch off.”

Students can be awarded in one of eight categories: Best Director, People’s Choice, Best Performance, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Sound Design and the coveted Golden Anteater award for Best Picture.

Zotfest also will include a panel of industry professionals who graduated from or are associated with the Irvine campus, including Dauchan, cinematographer Allen Ho, writer and director Sahar Jahani, producer Ivan Williams and director and producer Roxy Shih. Discussion will focus on the “changing landscape of film and television creation and distribution.”


The festival includes students from all over the campus, not just the film and media studies department.

“We want to give a platform to our students. We have a lot of diverse, unique voices and we want their stories to be told,” Brandenburg said.

“We have students from all schools submitting films, and we open [the festival] to the public to demonstrate to members of the community and film industry representatives,” she added. “We’ve really reached out to the community and are having people not necessarily involved on campus to be involved [in Zotfest].”

What sets Zotfest apart from other film festivals is the big musical film project, Brandenburg said. The films are typically based on recent movies. Last year’s was spun out of “The Greatest Showman.” Two years ago, it was based on “La La Land.”

“[The musicals] gained views not just at the festival but as promotion for the campus and showing how big the arts are here,” Brandenburg said. “At UCI, the arts are overshadowed because it’s a research school, so it’s very science-oriented. People don’t realize how much talent is at UCI.

“Having this festival … gives a voice to that side of campus, because now people are also coming to UCI because of the arts.”


What: Zotfest

When: 6 p.m. Monday


Where: Irvine Barclay Theatre, 4242 Campus Drive

Cost: Free, but tickets are required


Information: Opening remarks and “Don’t Stop Us Now” will begin at 6:15 p.m. Other screenings of student films will follow. Panel discussions are slated for 9 p.m., and awards are expected to be handed out at 10. Parking is available at the Student Center parking structure for $2 per hour or $10 for the day.

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