REVIEW: M-agination Film Festival

After two years away due to the pandemic, the M-agination Annual Film Festival made a reappearance at the Michigan Theater this week. The film festival showcased 13 short films, all of them written, produced, and acted by students.

I was largely impressed by the range and quality of these productions. There were a good amount of comedy sketches, some of which fell flat and felt like a group of friends just messing around on camera. Some of them, however, had me laughing out loud in my seat. I particularly enjoyed “Buster,” a gruesome short film about a sentient pet rock, and “Dunked,” a well-executed comedy in which nothing really made sense. There were also a handful of more serious, dramatic pieces, including the spooky, suspenseful short “Familiar,” which I was surprised to find out was partially filmed in my campus residence. I was particularly struck by a piece called “Leisure Activities,” which told a story with no words at all about someone going into the woods to paint. The cinematography and coloring in this one in particular that made this one stand out to me as a masterpiece. 

Overall, I really enjoyed this film festival. The “short” nature of short films meant that we got to see 13 different stories, and there was something for everyone. M-agination created a fun night out–I hope they are able to host their festival next year as well! 

REVIEW: M-agination Film Festival

After sixteen years of existence, the M-agination Film Festival has only improved with time. Being at the Michigan Theater, the event felt more like a night at the Ann Arbor Film Festival than an evening of student-made films.

Actually, I think M-agination’s festival was better. Before the festival started, I noticed the number of small touches that made it feel like a full event. Not only was there free popcorn and T-shirts and the obligatory programs, but I also saw a photo op  area with the M-agination logo and posters of each movie set on the a table in front of the theater.  

Of course, the most important part about a film festival are the films. I was impressed at the level of production of each film. Several that I saw, such as Millenia and Anna Garcia Does a One Woman Play looked pretty darn close to something I might see on TV or at a regular movie theater.

The very first film, Cheater, was admittedly pretty superficial. One boy’s goal to cheat on an assignment any way possible, with the action escalating, until the very end when we find that the assignment was to write five things about himself. Simple, yet I was nevertheless laughing throughout the film.

Foodie Daddy was a fresh take on  the concept of a sugar daddy, but with food. Innuendo played to everyone’s predilection for sexual humor. The Little Grebe was an adorable animated children’s story about a bird with a message in search of a recipient.

Like many student films, however, the M-agination docket lacked the depth that you would see in award-winning films. The Ladies Room was a “drunkumentary” that capitalized on the novelty of following girls as they prepped themselves before and after a party. I really enjoyed the idea of the film, but I would have liked to see a little more of a cohesive story there. Perhaps if the filmmakers did a genuine documentary shot in a ladies room, there could be some filmmaking gold.

Low Expectations, an honors thesis in the form of a sitcom pilot and the last film of the night, followed three girls as they struggled through the trials of college. It was a good film, but it was also the kind of film that is almost frustrating because it could have been much better with a few tweaks here and there. As most student films go, Low Expectations was color-corrected like a Marvel Movie (desaturated and flat). There were several wonderful jokes and ideas throughout the pilot, but they felt too far apart. Alas, it’s still worth a watch.

I highly recommend watching a few of this year’s films. Hopefully they will be uploaded to the M-agination Vimeo Page soon.

REVIEW: M-Agination Film Festival

Going to any event at the Michigan Theater makes the event itself a hundred times more grand. Despite a tornado warning and wretched weather, the 14th Annual Festival put on the student group M-Agination Films was a smashing success.



Each year 10-15 short student films are created with the help of M-Agination films and the results are shown together at the end of the year. I have seen this festival for the past three years, and every year the overall quality of films has improved.

And live music now too!
And live music now too!

As with many festivals, the genres of the films varied: “Oreo Therapy” was about a man getting over a recent breakup with the help of food-related gifts from his hall neighbor, while “Awaken Ann Arbor” was a documentary about a meditation group of the same name on U of M’s campus, and “Dreamer” was a full-on avant-garde piece that I will not even attempt to decipher.

This was a full event, with multiple half-hour films–“Co-Education” and “A Sense of Sound”–to end each block of the festival. There was a nice mix of comedies and dramas to take us on a subtle emotional roller coaster throughout the night. “Looking Back,” a depressing piece about a young student reminiscing about his lost lover, preceded “Babysitter,” a hilarious comedy about a young teen jumping through hoops to get the title job, and then we went to the documentary “Awaken.”

Vice President Anthony Kalil
Vice President Anthony Kalil


The second half of the festival was much the same. We opened with “Fortune Teller Gynecologist” which is a comedy that needs no further description, on to “A Study in Tokyo,” which was a documentary shot during a class trip. The best part about “Tokyo” was that, despite being shot almost entirely with a GoPro, it was entertaining and edited well enough to keep the audience focused.

“Legs” was a groovy music video shot literally below the waist. “Three” followed three individuals with various disorders (OCD, Anorexia, Social Anxiety) and used images, rather than words to describe their daily lives. To cap off the night was “A Sense of Sound,” which was a lot like Whiplash, but with elderly people.

Overall, amazing festival and something to attend in future years.


Festival Line Up

Oreo Therapy Directed by Monica Dollive (4 minutes)
Looking Back Directed by Leo Sheng (7 minutes)
Babysitter Directed by Jameson Duggan (8 minutes)
Awaken Ann Arbor Directed by Will Ellis (11 minutes)
Hero Directed by Claire Holloway (2 minutes)
Co-Education Directed by Anna Baumgarten (25 minutes)

Intermission 15 minutes

Fortune Teller Gynecologist Directed by Michael Wylie (6 minutes)
Dreamer Directed by Layne Simescu (6 minutes)
A Study in Tokyo Directed by Rachel Goldberg (9 minutes)
Three Directed by Karen Hua (7 minutes)
LEGS Directed by Jorge Gonzalez (4 minutes)
A Sense of Sound Directed by Jeremy Borison (30 minutes)