The 8th Annual UCLAxFilmFest brought some added glitz to downtown L.A. with a three-day celebration of film and filmmakers, culminating in a competition screening at the landmark Los Angeles Theatre on May 4.

More than 600 attendees were on hand to watch 19 selected short films that featured documentary, mixed media and a host of narrative genres – and included international entries from Turkey, Brazil, China and beyond. All were directed, written or produced by UCLA Extension students and alumni.

“The diversity of the selected films reflects the scope of our student community. We have students from all over the world who come in with a wide range experience levels and professional backgrounds,” said Erin Kaufman Gabrieloff, entertainment studies program director at UCLA Extension. “Our courses offer a space where filmmakers at all levels can hone their skills and develop their individual perspectives.”

Festival awards were given to five outstanding filmmakers, with the jury prize for best film presented to Christopher Hills Eaton for “Driftwood,” an animated short that tells the story of a young man who survives the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor by holding onto a piece of driftwood – and doesn’t let go for the rest of his life.

The award for best unique and artistic film was given to Ian Beckman for “1971 Kitchen Grand Brie,” a see-it-to-believe-it mockumentary about a high-stakes road race between everyday kitchen items that ends in a shocking case of murder.

William Mazzola was awarded the prize for best director for his film “Andean Condor,” a story about hardship and starting over in a stark Patagonian landscape. Mazzola, who enrolled in cinematography courses at UCLA Extension to supplement his background as a director, said the award was a reminder that his decision to move from Brazil to Los Angeles to pursue filmmaking was the right one.

“I couldn’t imagine a better night,” Mazzola said. “What a way to wrap my time at UCLA Extension.”

In addition to the three jury prizes, an audience choice award was given to Efe Tuncay’s “The Dot,” about one man’s mind-bending efforts to cope with the loss of his wife. The entertainment studies award, voted on by UCLA Extension staff, was given to Dylan Boom’s “Elevate,” about a security guard’s emotional encounter with the director of the agency where she works.

Many of the selected films touched on complex themes related to equity and social justice, both in Los Angeles and more broadly. “Food Broker: Doris,” a documentary from Lo Lam and Justine Suh, told the story of Doris Presley, a community volunteer in L.A. who for decades has worked to deliver food to the city’s homeless residents. “Cracks in the Foundation,” written and directed by Tessie McCoy, offered a poetic reflection on one Black woman’s effort to break with generational trauma. McCoy, who said the inspiration for the story came from her own life, wrote the film shortly after completing her first screenwriting course at UCLA Extension.

“I decided I wanted to give my dreams a shot,” McCoy said.

In addition to the competition screening, the 8th Annual UCLAxFilmFest featured an awards ceremony and after party, an opening night kick-off in collaboration with downtown L.A.’s ArtNight, and an industry panel and networking event at City Club Los Angeles. The festival’s move downtown comes on the heels of UCLA’s purchase of the Trust Building in Los Angeles’ Historic Core, where UCLA Extension is an anchor tenant, and is part of the institution’s wider effort to connect with Angelenos in every corner of the city.

“It’s my hope that this is the start of a long relationship between UCLAxFilmFest and the Historic Core,” said Eric Bullard, dean of UCLA Extension. “This is in many ways the heart of our Los Angeles community, and a perfect home for the vibrant, essential storytelling of our students.”