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The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

Egyptian Theatre screens Reality Bytes

Nick Glover
A screen at the Egyptian Theatre reads “Reality Bytes Will be starting shortly.” The second and final day of the 2024 Reality Bytes Student FIlm Festival occurred Wednesday. (Nick Glover | Northern Star)

While the Reality Bytes Film Festival has become an annual tradition at NIU, it is a newcomer to the Egyptian Theatre. 

The multi-decade event had its first night on Tuesday in Cole Hall and concluded Wednesday at the Egyptian Theatre. 

“Tonight, we’re excited about being in the Egyptian Theatre,” said Laura Vazquez, director of the festival and undergraduate program director for the media studies program. “It’s a great space, and we’re very excited about having the community come to our event. It’s hard to get the community, sometimes, to come to campus, but we’re hoping that this is more accessible and people will show up.” 

Vazquez hopes the festival returns to the Egyptian next year to help show off more films to the community.

Reality Bytes, compiled by students, aims to showcase the talent of other student filmmakers.

“It’s all student films, and that’s really impactful, I think, because like, just because you are still learning doesn’t mean you can’t make something super good and show it to other people,” said Thomas Rogalla, a senior communications major and assistant director of Reality Bytes.

For some students, it was a way to get out of their routines, and for others, the festival gave them the opportunity to see good films by young directors. 

“I mean it was free, that’s a big thing, and I really like how they brought it out to the Egyptian this year,” said Chloe Amelse, a senior digital marketing and sales major. “I thought that was a really nice touch, and I wish we had more turnout, but it was really exciting, it was really cool, so I’d recommend.”

As for the winners of the festival, the audience pick for the second day was “Daisy.”

The jury picks were “Overcast” for animation, “Island Zero” for documentary, “Happiness in the Palm of Her Hand” for best high-school film and “Meliora” for best narrative short. 

Here are the films showcased on Wednesday:

“Casting Dad”

“Casting Dad” is a narrative short film by Wes Clark from Davidson College that follows a young actor who tries to cast an older man to replace his own recently deceased dad. 


Directed by Taiwanese director Ethan Maxwell Gogo, a student at Taipei American School, “Parasomniac” is a narrative short that follows a young boy who, while ignoring his alarms, adventures into a dream world. 

“Missing in the Midwest”

The 2014 abduction of Joelle Lockwood is uncovered by her cousin, Harper Brock, a Savannah College of Art and Design student, in her documentary short “Missing in the Midwest.” As Brock dives deeper into her family’s tale, she finds answers to questions from her childhood.

“Nalb Noum”

An animated short, “Nalb Noum” follows a Black teen and his friends as they discover a monster previously only heard of in African folklore. Xzaviah J. Stone Sr., a student at Emerson College, directed this film. 

“Island Zero”

As the shore begins to take over Tangier Island, a small island off the coast of Virginia, the town’s mayor and much of its population question whether climate change is the cause of the town’s eminent end. This documentary short is directed by Ryan Broussard and Jousha Sisolak of the University of Notre Dame.

“American Dream”

Created by Renee Shi of Langley High School, the animated short “American Dream” follows a girl as her school is targeted by a school shooter. Shi is also the founder of Girls Against Gun Violence, a nonprofit trying to stop gun violence.  

“Almost Perfect: The 99th Pitch”

Biola University’s John Benjamin Terrell directed the documentary short film “Almost Perfect: The 99th Pitch” which follows Seattle Mariners pitcher Brain Holman as he nears a perfect game.


In an allegory to the abortion access crisis currently raging in the U.S., Chapman University’s Zach Spitz’s film, “Hysteria,” looks at what it means to have a living being out of your control tied to your freedom. 

“Happiness in the Palm of Her Hand”

This narrative film by Ella Janes, a student at Classes School of Advanced Studies High School at Northeast, follows a new mother as she reflects on her childhood, how she was raised and what that means for how she will raise her own daughter.


As a new girl, Daisy, moves in across the street from him, Simon starts to obsessively stalk, record and photograph her. Chapman University student Nico Valentine directed this narrative short film. 


Following her failed art show, Emma delves into the validity behind her artistry. Directed by Kristin Hildebrand, a student at Baltic Film, Media, and Arts School in Estonia, “Meliora” showcases a fading line between passion and sanity.

For more information on events coming to the Egyptian Theatre, visit their website,

To get involved in next year’s Reality Bytes Film Festival, enroll in COMS 475: Film Festival Administration. 

“The important thing to remember is that we are looking at student-made films,” Vazquez said. “It’s important to remember the films reflect students’ own perspective and points of view. And, to be honest with you, some of these films are a little deep; they’re a little heavy, and it’s important for us to respect the fact that these are tomorrow’s filmmakers.” 

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