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Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

Reality Bytes film festival kicks off

Jonathan Shelby
A screen with “Thank you for coming” projected onto it sits at the front of the Cole Hall auditorium after the first day of the Reality Bytes Student Film Festival. The second day of the festival is from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday at the Egyptian Theatre, 135 N. Second St. (Jonathan Shelby | Northern Star)

The auditorium of Cole Hall is normally filled with the sounds of equations, pencils hitting paper and the occasional snore of an overworked college student. 

However, on Tuesday, the hall echoed with the sounds of occasional laughter and standing ovations; the film festival had finally returned. 

The 23rd Reality Bytes Independent Student Film Festival has returned to NIU and brings with it a handful of new films, documentaries and short animations created and produced by various high school and college students.

Running from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., each visitor was given a brochure, ballot and ticket upon entering the building. 

Sporting a husky next to the Egyptian Theatre in a classic Hollywood-style poster, the brochure contained a list of the 10 films shown during Night 1 of the film festival. 

Also included in the brochure were the names of their producers and the team behind the event as well as a short summary of each film. 

After the festival, visitors were encouraged to vote for their favorite film from the 10 shown and participate in a raffle to win gift cards to The Junction, Pizza Pro’s and Fatty’s. 

As the lights dimmed and the audience quieted, eagerly awaiting what was to come on the darkened screen, time passed quickly as if those two hours were instead two minutes. 

Shannon Bowie, a junior computer science major, enjoyed the event but felt that the environment could have been a little quieter. 

“I really enjoyed it,” Bowie said. “Quieter seats would have been nice.”

The films shown during the festival are: 


Produced by Annie Otto from DePaul University, “Virus” tells the tale of a girl who accidentally downloads a virus onto her computer and is magically teleported into the computer to fight it.

As they fight through various similar programs like “Bopify” and “Boogle,” it all turns out to be a dream as she wakes up to, unfortunately, discover the virus really did corrupt her computer.

“Bajo El Sol” 

Meaning “Under the Sun,” this documentary from two students of the University of Notre Dame, Micaela Gomez Alvarado and Ryan Chao-Wei Lin, is about an immigrant couple working as street vendors in Santa Ana, California. 

“Split Ways”

Produced by Ryan Grossbard from the University of Rhode Island, this heart-wrenching short film shows the perspective of a lesbian couple whose relationship is slowly falling apart. 


This short 3D animation by Aleksander Mindov of Thomas Downey High School introduces a cloud technician managing the weather in his home in the clouds. 

While it may seem as if he has everything under control at first, he soon would drift into dreamland and cause problems for the world below. 


A darker narrative film by Emma Grosklos of Cleveland State University’s School of Film and Media Arts, “Power” introduces the audience to Emma as she attends her regular therapy session to heal the pain and trauma nine months after her assault. 

“Class Crush” 

This narrative short film by Katherine Lynn-Rose of Cornell University baits the audience in with what appears to be a cute, normal interaction and relationship between Julia and her crush Riley in a Disney-esque kind of way. 

Unexpectedly, the story takes a razor-sharp turn as it is revealed that it was all from Julia’s twisted perspective as she stabs Riley to death and dances with her body at prom while everyone is running away screaming. 


A horror narrative by Chaplin Adam Boyd of Santa Monica High School, this film follows a young boy who wakes up on Saturday morning with no cereal and no TV signal. 

Ominously, his TV suddenly regains its signal; however, it now showed the twisted faces of various animated animals and children. 

As if the situation wasn’t giving off “turn off the TV before something comes out of it” vibes, the phone begins to ring telling the kid to open the door and eat the cereal lying there. 

The film concludes on a darker note with the child’s worried mother coming home and discovering his face on the cover of the mysterious cereal box, frozen mid-scream. 

“Artist’s Hand”

This documentary film revolving around conversations with artists about artificial intelligence art was developed by nine students from Monta Vista High School in China. 

These students are Alice Lichang Wang, Amy Ziyi Yao, Cathy Ziyan Yang, George Qixuan Pan, Guaiguai Qingyu Zhang, Iris Xinyan Shi, Michael Zelai Li, Peter Peiyi Lin and Ziting Keven Pi. 

“Singing Duck”

A narrative film by Will Susor of Savannah College of Art & Design, the story begins with a talk show interview with starlet Charissa and her singing duck.

However, the interview quickly goes south as the duck is not what he seems to be and appears to be in a parasitical partnership with Charissa. 

“Kino Kopf”

This narrative film by Jack Cosgriff of Prague Film School tells the story from the perspective of a sentient humanoid VHS camera which is given life as it tries to figure out why it exists in the first place. 

The images on screen are an odd mix of color and slightly distorted images, making the audience question the purpose of such an odd creation. 

Laura Vazquez, the professor of record for Film Festival Administration and director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Communication, praised her students and department for all of their hard work. 

“I particularly want to call attention to the fact that my students are very hard working and they put a lot of effort into pulling this off,” Vazquez said. “I’m happy we’re going to be in downtown DeKalb at the Egyptian Theatre because the community doesn’t come to campus as much as we would like them to so, OK, we’re going to go to you, and that’s the point of tomorrow’s screening.” 

Once the films were finished and the lights had returned to their near-blinding color, a trailer for the films that will be shown in the Egyptian Theatre played, leaving visitors to reminisce on the hard work they laid eyes on. 

The second day of the Reality Bytes Independent Student Film Festival will be from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday in the Egyptian Theatre, 135 N. Second St. 

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