Binghamton University students enrolled in CINE 300: Curating Film and Video held their 14th annual Student Experimental Film Festival (SEFF) on Dec. 2 and 3.

The class, which is currently led by Anna Kipervaser, lecturer of cinema, has allowed undergraduate students to create their own film festival since it was first established in 2010. Over the course of three months, students were tasked with curating a comprehensive selection of short films from dozens of submissions and reaching out to aspiring filmmakers as well as colleges across the country.

This year’s theme was dream states, where all selected films incorporated subconscious introspection and fantastical surrealism in some form. The films spanned across a variety of genres and styles to reflect certain themes, divided into six different programs over two days such as “Essence of Emotions” and “Liminal Spaces.”

In embracing the innovation and ingenuity that comes with experimental filmmaking, students implemented immersive sound design, complex visual effects and unconventional editing in their work. This diverged from the traditional narrative structure, which BU’s cinema department celebrates.

This year’s SEFF was hosted in HCS, an entertainment venue in Vestal. Vintage couches were arranged around the indoor half-pipe, decorated with colorful crocheted blankets — one couch was even suspended mid-air with yellow cable cords. Films were projected against a wall above shelves of miscellaneous books wrapping around the space on all corners. The atmosphere was infused with warmth and character through scribbled graffiti, caricatures and eccentric art pieces, physically embodying the same kind of individuality observed in this year’s films.

There was a designated Q&A session in between each program that allowed audience members to engage directly with filmmakers.

Cailey Donaldson, a senior studying film at Virginia Commonwealth University, explained how her own emotions influenced the creation of her short film “Spiral of the Formicidae,” which is described on SEFF’s program as “a haunting exploration of the tumultuous journey from girlhood to womanhood.”

“I was going through a period where a lot of my emotions were being invalidated by the people around me, [and] I was going crazy,” Donaldson said. “I wanted to make a film all about how even if something’s in your head and you’re experiencing it, it doesn’t take away from the emotions that you’re feeling. If you feel something, it’s valid.”

Zagham Shah, a BU senior double-majoring in physics and cinema, intended to capture the synthesis between science and art in his film “Gedanken,” in which “a student listening to the ramblings of a philosopher is momentarily enthralled in what the universe and his imagination conjure,” according to SEFF’s program.

“I’ve historically made a lot of films about my identity and my culture, and I wanted to step away from that,” Shah said. “I’m also a physics major and so I often think about concepts I presented in the film in my own life. So a lot of that is what I think about when I think of nature and the properties of light. I was trying to blend those two things together and try to convey the feeling that I have on a daily basis.”

The full program can be found on SEFF’s official website, featuring over 50 films from local students at BU in addition to national institutions such as Duke University, Rhode Island School of Design and the California Institute of the Arts. Each film offers a glimpse into the distinctive visions and talents of its filmmaker, such as “Mindseye” by Carter Colwell, which is wistfully dedicated to his younger self, and the mixed media animation “Locked Wounds” by Vidhu Kota.

Jacob Harris, a junior at BU double-majoring in political science and cinema, elaborated on his experience as one of the festival’s lead curators and coordinators.

“We received over 150 submissions, so it was pretty hard to get them down to the program we have here,” Harris said. “It was very rewarding. I’m part of the [BU] Film Salon, which also does film programs and festivals, but this was the first time [I’ve done something] on this scale.”

Kipervaser, who showcases her own work at international film festivals and also has experience curating, described what it’s like teaching CINE 300 and working with students to plan this year’s SEFF.

“The students like figuring out what they want to do, so I’m trying not to guide their decision-making, but also support them in the direction they want to take things,” Kipervaser said. “That’s been a learning experience for all of us.”

Kipervaser explained how the film festival benefits both the students and filmmakers involved, giving them a sense of real-world experience. The students were entirely responsible for graphic and web design, fundraising, social media, coordinating and programming. They learned how to manage deadlines not only for the class, but for planning a major event.

Kipervaser also elaborated on the accessibility of the festival for attendees and students.

“This is a free submission festival,” Kipervaser said. “We’re working on getting them paid. So hopefully that established a precedent not just for this student-run film festival, but other student-run film festivals.”

Attending this year’s festival were students, professors and participating filmmakers among others who conversed with each other after the program, exchanging their own ideas and insight — establishing a community for anyone passionate about filmmaking and curating.

“I think it breeds a sense of community and a support system, which is also really huge and wonderful,” Kipervaser said. “I hope that it’s exciting and wonderful for everybody who shows up, whether they are related to the filmmakers themselves or not at all.”