The University of Iowa

Iowa Filmmakers Headed to Cannes

April 15th, 2011

The Agony and Sweat of the Human Spirit, a film made by two graduate students at the University of Iowa, has just been selected to screen at the Cannes Film Festival in May.


Joe Bookman and D. Jesse Damazo, two graduate students from the University of Iowa, were honored Thursday when the Cannes Film Festival announced their Official Selection for 2011. Bookman and Damazo’s film, The Agony and Sweat of the Human Spirit, was selected from more than 1500 entries to screen at this year’s Cinéfondation, the student film competition at Cannes. Michel Gondry (director of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Green Hornet) will be the president of this year’s Cinéfondation jury.

As part of the Official Selection, The Agony and Sweat of the Human Spirit is one of 16 student films chosen from around the world. Bookman and Damazo are the first filmmakers from the University of Iowa to have received the honor of screening at the Cinéfondation. The Agony and Sweat of the Human Spirit will be one of three American student films screening the 64th Festival de Cannes.

“Getting your film into Cannes is a mind-bendingly unlikely thing to have happen,” Damazo explains. “Since hearing the news, Joe and I have been pretty much overwhelmed with gratitude and disbelief.”

Their offbeat comedy about a professional ukuleleist, his manager, and an ailing chihuahua, was shot entirely in Iowa City. Consisting of just five shots, their fifteen-minute short is an experiment in long take filmmaking.

“A lot can go wrong during a long take,” Bookman says. “When you go for several minutes without cutting away, there’s always an element of luck in getting the shot.”

Bookman and Damazo wrote and directed the film. They also play roles onscreen as the only two characters in the film.

Thanks to the financial support several departments and organizations at the University of Iowa (UI Graduate College, UI International Programs, Dept. of Cinema and Comparative Literature, Dept. of Communication Studies, Film and Video Production Program, the Fine Arts Council, Executive Council of Graduate and Professional Students) Bookman and Damazo will travel to France next month to attend the festival.