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Chezum at film fest

From the left, Eric Dean Freese, film festival director with Matt Chezum ’25 and his family at the Cedar Rapids Independent Film Festival. 

Augustana student wins award at Cedar Rapids Independent Film Fest

Matthew Chezum ’25, from New Windsor, Ill., won the Student Audience Choice Eddy Award in the 2024 Cedar Rapids Independent Film Festival (CRIFF), held April 5-7, for his short film "S'mores."

“S’mores” features a witch burning in the marshmallow universe. The short film was one of 57 entries from across the country. View Chezum’s film and a Q&A about his project at

Chezum was invited to enter his film after winning the Audience Choice Award and the Best Narrative Fiction Award for his live-action short in the Augustana Student Film Showcase in October.

The win came as a surprise to Chezum, a chemistry and film double major. “I was not expecting that because of the quality of the other films that were accepted as well,” he said.

At the festival, Chezum felt a great deal of support from the festival directors and other filmmakers. “For it being my first film festival ever, CRIFF was such a great experience,” he said. “The festival was fun, and I met a lot of great people in the industry. I also got lots of advice and words of wisdom by just having conversations with different filmmakers.”

Augustana’s Film Program Director Stacy Barton said Chezum’s win is a significant accomplishment.

“It's thrilling to see one of Augustana's hardest-working new film majors getting their student-produced work out there and screening at juried film festivals already,” she said. “This is just the first of what I know will be many successful titles on Matthew's growing filmography and exhibition résumé.”

Barton said receiving the Audience Choice Award is a pinnacle achievement for any filmmaker, since it is chosen directly by viewers in attendance at the festival.

“To receive this honor in recognition for a maker's very first film ever created is practically unheard of, although in this case not at all surprising and totally deserved,” she said.

Chezum’s win at CRIFF is just the beginning. Following his win, Chezum was invited to submit his film to three more festivals: The Sioux City International Film Festival, the Iowa Independent Film Festival, and the Twin Cities Intercollegiate Film Festival.

Chezum is looking forward to his future as a filmmaker: “This was the perfect plunge into my career as a filmmaker, and I'm excited for what's next.”

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