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This past October 22nd, 2020 marked the 16th Annual MAD Film Festival at Notre Dame. The festival is celebrated each year in tribute to Michael Cuccione, a young man who achieved so much and inspired so many in his 16 years. In fact, all proceeds from the festival go towards the Michael Cuccione Foundation: a research foundation for childhood cancer.

By | Justyna Jaroma

In terms of participation,  all grade 11 and 12 Notre Dame Students and interested students from other schools are welcome to take part. In past years, Mr. Isherwood gathered numerous teams from his Notre Dame Theatre Company classes, and from schools like St. Thomas Aquinas. Unfortunately, due to current circumstances, the grade 12 Theatre Company Class participated in their own MAD Film Festival. The grade 11 Theatre Company Class will be hosting theirs later in [Q4] quarter four.

The rules go as follows:

  • Teams ranging from 1-8 participants are provided with a mystery package. Within this envelope, they are given two genres, a major prop, a minor prop, and most importantly, a grand theme. Each individual package has variations, ensuring no two packages are the same.
  • Additionally, a team representative chooses a piece of paper from a bowl; on this double-sided paper, there are two character archetypes the team needs to incorporate in their film. 
  • Teams are to choose between the two genres while having to utilize both given props. The only aspects of the package that are interchangeable and identical between all groups are the two given props and the theme. 

Obeying all of these guidelines, students are challenged to produce an original short film no longer than six minutes in length.

But wait, there’s more; teams are only given 10 days to complete and submit their films!

The theme of this year’s MAD Film Festival was: “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”. Shot in creative-mode, teams highlight this simple yet sophisticated theme. 

The final stage of the MAD Film Festival is an awards ceremony. Everyone involved is present, this means judges, participants, friends, and family. Briefly described, it mirrors a mini Oscar’s Ceremony.

This year was quite unique as the festival took place during the Theatre Company 12 class. Unfortunately, only the participants and Mr. Isherwood were physically present. However, Mr. Isherwood reached out to his friends in the industry and arranged something very special. The Festival was judged by film industry individuals from all over the world such as actors, actresses, lighting designers, sound engineers, and many more.

Teams were watched and critiqued by experts in the field.  Judges then carefully voted electronically, and segregated the 7 short films into 15 awards categories. 

The titles of this year’s seven films are, The Silver Lining, Just the Two of Us, The Interrogation, The Void, The Pretty and the Petty, The Inception of the End, and Unique. 

The “People’s Choice” award went to The Silver Lining, produced by Natasha Vescovi, Carly Ronning, Jennifer Fierro, and Chiara Mainella. The “Best Film” award was collected by Adrien Biason, Kurt Puzon, Samson Chan, Nathan Alcubilla, and Julien Tavernier for their short film, Unique


Participating in the MAD Film Festival, I thoroughly enjoyed every single aspect of the filming, the brainstorming, the stress, and the post-production. The Festival not only showcases a team’s strengths, but it displays the power of determination and the importance of team effort. Although Covid-19 tried to derail this year’s edition, we were still able to “Look on the Bright Side of Life”. 

Please enjoy the rest of the submissions for this year’s MAD Film Festival:


If you enjoyed these productions, please leave a comment below.

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