Student winner of IES Abroad film festival revealed in virtual ceremony

Founded in 2014, the IES Abroad Study Abroad Film Festival is one of the first student-focused study abroad film festivals in the industry.

“There’s a lot of potential in study abroad to be, as cliché as it sounds, a life-changing semester”

Kokko’s film, If I Could Put Into Words, was one of three finalists’ films that were voted on by the public. There was a total of 1,260 votes, of which he received almost half.

The runners up were:

  • Fragments by Lexi Floom (IES Abroad London – Study London, Spring 2020 | Indiana University)
  • 日本の旅行 My Trip to Japan by Michael Sparks (IES Abroad Tokyo-UNC-Chapel Hill Japanese Language Customized Program, Summer 2019 | UNC Chapel Hill)

Kokko’s film achieved the most votes crowning him the Grand Prize Winner and recipient of $1,500, while the two runners-up received $500.

He said he developed such a connection with his host family and friends that he made studying abroad and dedicated a film completely inspired by them.

“I think that when I boarded the plane to France and the person that also left France are just two completely different people,” he said.

“There’s a lot of potential in study abroad to be, as cliché as it sounds, a life-changing semester. Be prepared for that and really lean into the people around you because the people around you are really going to grow you.”

This is the first year the Film Festival hosted a virtual event, which featured the finalists’ films, a Q&A to learn more about the filmmaker’s inspiration and process, and the winner announcement.

More than 50 films overall were submitted by IES Abroad students to this year’s festival, narrowed down to three finalists by a jury of directors, editors, producers, and screenwriters, all of whom are either IES Abroad alumni or film studies faculty from the organisation’s international centres.

An estimated 150 people tuned in live to watch the films, hear the three finalists answer questions submitted from the audience, and to learn who won.

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

“We live in a completely different world today and we think much differently about travel,” noted Amy Ruhter McMillan, senior associate vice president of Marketing and founder of the IES Abroad Study Abroad Film Festival.

“In a year where travel went from possible to impossible, these films remind us that when the world is ready, it is still worth exploring.”

The recording of the event is available to view on the IES Abroad YouTube channel.

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