Thao Nguyen ’21 was honored recently when her film “5 Years from Water” was selected for inclusion in the 2021 Indy Shorts International Film Festival. A celebration of determination, the film was selected to screen from hundreds of entries from around the world.
“5 Years from Water” is a documentary short centering on Mike Danesi, a 72-year-old man from New England who has spent the last decade building a wooden boat by hand in his self-crafted barn.
The film explores the emotional and personal connection Mike has to the lost art of wooden shipbuilding and what prompted him to pursue such an ambitious project at this period of life. Using a three-member crew of Blair students, Thao shot the film’s footage on a field trip led by film teacher Robert Hanson.
Thao’s film won Best Documentary Short and Audience Choice Award during the festival, and it marked Thao’s directorial debut and the first time she submitted work to be featured in a film festival. The film was also screened in the New Jersey Documentary Film Festival, the LA Student Film Fest, the All American High School Film Festival and the Phantoscope High School Film Festival.
Presented by Heartland Film, the 2021 Indy Shorts International Film Festival is the largest shorts festival in the Midwest, running in Indianapolis, Indiana. Originally an expansion to the Heartland International Film Festival, Indy Shorts has become its own six-day summer festival that celebrates the unique, creative and captivating art of short films in a wide range of categories. Winners frequently qualify for consideration in the Annual Academy Awards’® Short Film category.
“It was an absolute honor to have something I am so passionate about be recognized and shared to film lovers like me,” Thao said. “An added joy that came out from the experience was being able to meet and connect with talented filmmakers all over the world that I might not have had the chance to acquaint with otherwise.”
Thao credits the community at Blair for helping her bring Mr. Danesi’s story to life.
She is especially grateful to her friends, Aniketh Bandi ’23 and Gator Hopkins ’21, for forming the crew and handling the cameras and equipment without much prior experience. She notes that Blair’s art department provided her and the production team with the proper gear and the support that aided herin realizing her vision for the film.
“Lastly, and I have probably beaten this gratitude horse to death, but thank you to Mr. Hanson for discovering this story, for being the silent driving force behind this entire project,” Thao said. “I simply cannot wait to see how he will guide the future generations of filmmakers at Blair Academy.”
Due to the pandemic lockdown restrictions in Vietnam, Thao is now mainly focused on screenwriting, but her dream is to attend film school. She hopes that the success of “5 Years from Water” will provide new opportunities to work in-person on film sets and create her next vision. The Blair community looks forward to Thao’s career and the stories she will tell in future films.