Film co-directed by Quinnipiac professor made world premiere at 2020 Sundance Film Festival

December 11, 2019

Ashley Brandon showing a female student something on a video camera while a male student in the background holds a microphone boom.

A short film co-directed by Ashley Brandon, assistant professor of film, television and media arts at Quinnipiac, made its world premiere at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.

The film, “Día de la Madre,” was screened in Sundance’s documentary short film category Jan. 23–Feb. 2 in Utah. The film was co-directed by Quinnipiac adjunct film professor Dennis Höhne and produced by Nevo Shinaar, Brandon’s classmate at Northwestern University.

Brandon learned her film had been accepted when a Sundance official called her on November 17.

“The caller ID said, ‘Santa Monica, California,’” she recalled. “I thought it was a spam call because I get them a lot. I also knew that Sundance was going to be calling around that time, so I decided to pick up. It was so exciting. I have dreamed of getting that phone call since I was 7 years old and fantasized about what it would be like. I really did not have a reaction because I was so shocked.”

“Día de la Madre,” a six-minute documentary shot in one day with a $300 budget, was filmed on Mother’s Day 2019. It features young members of the Mariachi Academy of New England.

While Brandon was tight-lipped about the plot, she did offer that Sundance is the ultimate honor for independent filmmakers.

“It is the biggest and most prestigious festival in the world,” Brandon added. “There is a feeling of validation. The film did not have a big budget or a big name behind it and was literally made with a few lenses I borrowed from Quinnipiac. It is exciting because I did not think I would have a chance to make it to Sundance.”

Brandon, who grew up in Defiance, Ohio, is a graduate of Wright State University's motion pictures program and earned a master of fine arts degree in documentary media from Northwestern University. She joined Quinnipiac in Fall 2017.

Brandon was nominated as a finalist at the 2014 Student Academy Awards and has screened at Slamdance Film Festival, Austin Film Festival, Cinequest, Portland (Oregon) Film Festival, Rhode Island International Film Festival, Cleveland International Film Festival, Citizen Jane Film Festival, St. Louis International Film Festival, Big Sky Documentary Film Festival and the American Documentary Film Festival.

She is a 2016 winner of the Tribeca Film Institute & ESPN Future Filmmaker Prize and a participant in the Tribeca Film Institute's If/Then American Midwest 2017 documentary program, which provided funding for her 2018 film, “On the Bit.”

Brandon co-produced a film, “Stay Close,” that appeared at Sundance last year. She is looking forward to seeing how audiences at Sundance react to “Día de la Madre.”

“I already feel like a winner,” Brandon said. “I just want to go and have a good time.”

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BA or BFA in Film, Television and Media Arts

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