Stephanie Aguinaldo ’24 Wins International Short Film Award

Stephanie Aguinaldo ’24 has won first place for “Best Narrative” in the international Rough Cut Film Festival sponsored by the Lycée Français de New York Cultural Center. Her award-winning short film, in French with English subtitles, chronicles her struggles identifying as a Filipina American and how she overcame her insecurities as she grew in maturity and appreciation for her roots. Aguinaldo was the only female award winner across all categories. Past film festival winners have gone on to study film and pursue professions in the industry.

The annual festival this year had several categories within which a student could submit including: Best Animated Short, Best Documentary Short, Best Narrative Short, and Best Experimental Short. “This year, I chose the narrative genre, creating a very personal and inspirational story for viewers. With only three days to work, I wrote, filmed, and edited all in French with the help of my French teacher, Madam Posso-Campana,” explained Aguinaldo. All the winning entries were publicly screened in a movie theater in Harlem and included in the program of Francophone Short Films Festival.

“When I was younger, I thought I had to look like the girls I see on screen or the dolls I used to see at the store. But as I grew older, I realized that I am beautiful in my own ways and I come from a family that has such a unique and inspirational immigration story. I have such an appreciation for my family, especially my grandfather who worked in Saudi Arabia to provide for his family. Now, I believe everyone is beautiful no matter what race, size, or language we speak,” said Aguinaldo in reference to the personal journey of self-realization she expresses through the film.

Aguinaldo first learned of the film festival earlier in the academic year when French students from Oak Knoll participated in the Lycée’s annual competition of French theater — billed as a “yearly highlight for New York’s Francophone community.” She spotted a poster for the festival, snapped a photo on her phone, and made a note to participate. After studying French for three years at Oak Knoll she gained an appreciation for the culture and language, which has also bolstered her appreciation of her own background and culture. This film festival seemed an excellent opportunity to relate that journey of self-discovery.

“I’ve always wanted to be an actress,” reported Aguinaldo. “I really got into filming as I grew older. This was my first time making a movie including filming, editing, and scripting.” The experience has inspired her to investigate additional film festivals and continue to hone her craft. She plans to study creative arts in post-secondary school.

Congratulations, Stephanie! We hope someday to see her at Cannes or at the Oscars!