Cinetopia Film Festival’s Detroit Voices is proud to announce the eighteen short finalist films that will make up the competition phase of the program and all premiere at the closing screening of the Sixth Annual Cinetopia Film Festival on Sunday, June 11. The programming team is also announcing the addition of “Detroit Voices Selects”, which will showcase some noteworthy films, from all entries into the competition. Another highlight will be “Detroit Voices Retrospective”, which will bring former finalists and winners back to the Cinetopia stage to share their latest work.

Detroit Voices provides an opportunity for Michigan-based filmmakers to share their talent and Michigan perspective with a larger audience and win cash awards, up to $6,000, courtesy of the Knight Foundation and the Michigan Film and Digital Media Office.

The 2017 Detroit Voices Competition ran for nine weeks and was open to all Michigan filmmakers to submit their short film of any genre. The eighteen finalist films, selected from more than a hundred entries for the competition, range in length from 1 minute to 17 minutes. The 2017 finalist films all represent a wide range of Michigan-based stories, including the struggles of a Middle Eastern student making their way in the US, a 2D animated film based on the Native American legend of Sleeping Bear, a grieving 11-year-old boy on the east side of Detroit, an investigation of the road that separates Detroit from Grosse Pointe, and a dramatization of Shakespeare’s 65th sonnet, produced in cooperation with Shakespeare in Detroit. The Detroit Voices Competition program will take place on the closing night of the festival, Sunday, June 11, at 7:30 PM at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit. A closing night party will follow.

The Detroit Voices Selects program will feature films that didn’t qualify for the competition phase, but were noteworthy enough that the programming team felt they deserved to be featured. The six selected films, including a sci-fi western set in the not-too-distant future and an intimate look at discrimination. Detroit Voices Selects will screen during the Cinetopia Drinks x Design event at Cinema Detroit on Thursday, June 8 from 6-8 PM. This event is free and open to the public.

The Detroit Voices Retrospective will take place in Ann Arbor on Sunday, June 4 at 3:15 PM. The Retrospective features alumni from Detroit Voices 2014, 2015, and 2016, including Ted Houser (2014’s R. Stern), Robert Butler (2015’s Within) Jasmine Rivera (2014’s Nain Rouge), Christian Davis (2015’s Solitude), Tap Peoples (2014’s Introspective), and Andrea Claire Morningstar (2014’s Chris & Ariel). These alumni will appear in person to share their latest work and reflections on life since taking part in Detroit Voices. To purchase tickets or for more information, please visit

The complete list of selected films follows:

Detroit Voices Finalists 2017 

Biodiversity is Unity.  Dir. DyShauna Rutherford 3 mins

An exploration of the innate diversity of biology and how it’s reflected in our community and environment

About DyShauna Rutherford
DyShauna Rutherford, a 17-year-old film maker from Northern Michigan, has been making videos for four years. Filmmaking hasn’t been a passion for long but it has helped her grow closer to my family (my actors) and grow more artistically.

The Phoenix.  Dir. Bushra Varachia 4 mins

An aspiring photographer sets off on a journey through Detroit to return a golden, car-shaped clock to a mysterious woman in a red coat.

About Bushra Varachia
A third year Cinema Studies student at Oakland University in Rochester, MI. After graduation, she aspires to be a film editor. 

Bombs Over the Undergrad.  Dir. Mirna Aziz 3 mins

The struggle of a Middle Eastern student arriving in the USA.

About Mirna Aziz
Mirna was born in Baghdad, Iraq. She began singing at age 3, and acting later at 10. In 2009, she moved to the United States with her family. Participating in music and filmmaking activities during her high school years helped furthered her career. She started pursuing music and film at 17 years old.

Makwa.  Dir. Stephenie Kandes 3 mins

A 2D animated film based on the Native American legend of Sleeping Bear Dunes in Northern Michigan about a mother and her two children whose island is destroyed by a forest fire.

About Stephenie Kandes
Stephenie Kandes is a twenty-two old Michigan native and a recent graduate from the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, GA. She just completed her B.F.A in Animation with a minor in storyboarding, specializing particularly in 2D and puppet animation. Stephenie is very active; she enjoys playing soccer and volleyball as well as performing through community theater. She has participated in over eighteen productions and has played roles such as Mrs. Potts (Beauty and the Beast), Mme. Thernardier (Les Miserables), and Ursula the Sea Witch (The Little Mermaid Jr.). Other things that she enjoys are writing, reading, and walking on the beach looking for petosky stones and beach glass.

Scrap Dolls. Dir. Aude Cuenod 13 mins

On the east side of Detroit an 11-year-old boy, grieving over the loss of his best friend, encounters an artist who makes art out of abandoned objects.

Black Trust Fund Baby vs Remote Therapy.  Dir. Josh Gibert 5 mins

A bratty college drop-out distracts himself from his woes with technology but an encounter with his step-sister triggers a supernatural revelation.

About Josh Gibert
Josh Gibert is a 24-year-old, local actor/director and University of Michigan alum. In 2015, he was chosen to participate in the prestigious Sundance Institute’s Screenwriter’s Intensive: Detroit. Josh is currently producing and starring in his own web series, is developing a Detroit-set pilot, and is working to bring challenging narratives and compelling characters to the screen.

Raghad. Dir. Hadeel Hadidi  11 mins

As a little girl starts kindergarten, she realizes she is perceived as different by the other children and must find a way to hold on to her identity whilst trying to fit in.

About Hadeel Hadidi
Hadeel Hadidi is a writer/director and Michigan native. She holds a BA in Communications from the University of Michigan. She continued her education and received her MFA in Screenwriting & Directing from Columbia College Chicago. In the last four years, she has worked on numerous commercials, music videos and feature films with many esteemed directors, including The Wachowskis, Michael Bay, Damien Chazelle, Nicolas Winding Refn and Mark Romanek. She currently works in digital at Rhett & Link, Inc and has also produced a segment  for the YouTube duo for VidCon Europe 2017. She is also writing her first feature film, Alaa & the Jinn.

Alter Road. Dir. Julian Carmona 12 mins

We investigate the eponymous road that stands between the Detroit and Grosse Pointe communities, as both a literal and an emotional divide.

About Julian Carmona
Born in Detroit, Julian Carmona began his filmmaking career during his time at the University of Michigan. There, he co-directed his first documentary film, Alter Road. Since then, he has worked on sports and reality shows, all in the Metro Detroit area. His most recent work (in- progress) is a documentary on Detroit’s Mexican Town community.

The Corridor. Defended. Dir. Mike Targus 17 mins

A Detroit man with fractured sensibilities, has to decide whether to try and fix his seedy neighborhood, or take a backseat to its chaos.

About Mike Targus
Mike Targus is a Los Angeles based writer and actor originally from Detroit, Michigan. He has a BFA in Theatre from Wayne State University, and he’s also completed several programs of study in comedy writing and improv at various theatres. (iO Chicago, The Second City Detroit, and the Upright Citizens Brigade in both LA and New York.)  He also owns and operates Mack Black Productions, which produced the award winning (Best Comedy Ensemble) web-series, “39 to Go,” in 2014, and, “THE CORRIDOR. DEFENDED.”

Cherish. Dir.  Jason Valentini 2 mins

From a distance, anyone can seem charming. However, opinions may change upon closer inspection.

About Jason Valentini
Together, Jason Valenti and his husband have been creating video shorts for the Detroit improv community for many years.

The Detroit Sonnets: # 65. Dir. Aaron Martin 2 mins

A dramatization of Shakespeare’s 65th sonnet, focusing on time, decay and preservation – with a Detroit twist. Produced in cooperation with Shakespeare in Detroit.

About Aaron Martin
Aaron Martin is a producer/director of narrative and documentary films. In the last year, Aaron produced The Ethanol Effect, an hour-long documentary for national PBS examining the political and economic effects of making fuel from corn, and was the producer/director of Beyond the Tap, a half-hour special on the water crisis in Flint, Michigan for PBS WORLD Channel. Aaron has also produced segments for the PBS NewsHour, SciTech Now and Local USA on subjects ranging from a deadly disease affecting bats to underwater archaeology. Aaron is dedicated to telling stories on film, using vintage 35mm and 16mm equipment that dates from the early 1920’s to the late 1960’s. He is currently at work on three short documentaries – one on the artist Scott Hocking, one on an ancient archaeological site in Ohio, and Better Things, a silent city symphony about the revival of Detroit – and The Detroit Sonnets, a series of short films produced in partnership with Shakespeare in Detroit that dramatize William Shakespeare’s poetry in modern-day Detroit. 

Akoma. Dir. Alex Gasparetto 12 mins

a post Civil War Era drama surrounding two courageous young women in a fight for love and freedom that could cost them their lives.

Alex Gasparetto
While attending The Motion Picture Institute of Michigan, writer Lucie Gillespie met director Alex Gasparetto. Their mission as creative partners became to tell powerful, (and at times controversial) female-driven stories. WDIVs Local 4 Second Annual Film Challenge winner, Akomat; is no exception. Shot in the rural woods of Goodells, MI and The Henry Fords Greenfield Village with a diverse group of local talent and crew, Akoma; sparked the interest of Arab American News for a special featured article during its production phase. The film is a reminder to anyone whose faith in humanity is currently being challenged that love can most certainly drive out hate.

A Poem Of Glass & Steel, Dir. Ryan Clancy 5 mins

The intimate documentation of the architecture and culture of an iconic Detroit neighborhood.

About Ryan Clancy
Director Ryan Clancy is a Detroit based filmmaker and M.A. candidate in media studies at Wayne State University. His work examines how modern changes affect established cultures. 

The Ones Who Loved Me Are Gone. Dir. Parisa Ghaderi 1 min

Looking back at my mom’s wedding tape, I noticed how all of these people are gone for different reasons, having left a physical or emotional absence in my life.

About Parisa Ghaderi
Parisa Ghaderi (b.1983, Tehran, Iran) is a visual artist/ filmmaker; earned her MFA in Art and Design from the University of Michigan (USA) in 2014. She moved to the U.S. in 2009. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally including South Asian Women Collective (Shirin Gallery, NY), the 6th International Media Arts Award (Queensland, Australia), ExperimentoBio, (Spain), A Woman house or a Roaming House? (A.I.R. Gallery, NY), Fadjr International Visual Arts Festival (Tehran, Iran), and the Red bull House of Art (Detroit, MI). Her work is featured in The Huffington Post, The Brooklyn Rail, Video Focus (France), Nineteen Sixty Nine (University of California, Berkeley), the Michigan Daily, Unite Women (online), and the Visual ARTBEAT Magazine (Austria). Ghaderi has made four short films: “Still”, “Broken Glass”, “The ones who loved me are gone”, and “One way”. Her short film “Still” has been screened at Women’s Independent Film Festival, Santa Monica, California, The International Film Festival for Documentary, Short, and Comedy, Indonesia, and CINEWEST, Sydney, Australia. “Still” won the International Award of Merit Winners, from the International Film Festival for Documentary, Short, and Comedy, Indonesia. “Broken Glass” was screened at Lady’s First International Film Festival, Cork city, Ireland. “The ones who loved me are gone” was the winner of The Berlin Flash Film Festival, Berlin, Germany, in 2017. Her films attempt to transform a painful human odyssey into a visceral experience, highlighting the gap between immigration as a set of policies and as a human condition.

Model No Human. Dir. Adam Cooper 11 mins

A man with a mechanical brain believes he once lived as a human. When he meets a familiar young girl, memories of his past are triggered and he fights for her life.

About Adam Cooper
Adam has been interested in filmmaking since the womb. He and his brother were given a camcorder at a young age and they never put it down. Since then, they’ve made a whole ‘lotta shorts that had good festival runs taking them to TIFF, Cannes, the Hamptons and back home to Detroit where they make their films. Model No. Human is one of those films, and was inspired by Adam’s fear of robots and artificial intelligence. When he saw the opportunity to do a “Cyberpunk Sci-Fi project with heart,” he viewed it as a way to project his paranoia onto others and make them suffer with him. In addition to suffering, Adam hopes the viewers will have an enjoyable experience and come out with a new perspective on AI. The brothers are currently developing their first feature, a Sci-Fi thriller, and are stoked to kick that into motion in the near future!

Road Salt, Street to Stream. Dir. Nick Hayes 6 mins

Tells the story of road salts’ massive expansion in America and how it has become one of the great threats to our fresh water systems and the great lakes.

About Nick Hayes
Nick currently lives in Detroit as a full-time producer and director. He has worked for commercial clients including GM, Google, and AAA. Beginning his career in camera, he worked in New Orleans under Michael Lohmann for 3 months, the current DP of “Nashville” on ABC. Nick has also worked under Oscar-nominated documentary director Stephen Kessler. While living in Chicago, Nick had the privilege of working under Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Cam Be during production on his upcoming documentary about renowned International artist Hebru Brantley. Nick is passionate about film as a tool to create empathy, inform, and engage people politically within their community. Road Salt | Street to Stream was the culmination of years of research by Nick Hayes into the topic and was made by possible by a partnership with Detroit Public Television.

Toussaint (A Short). Dir. Naeemah Stewart 9 mins

Toussaint is a young artist who fails to overcome his greatest loss and finds new meaning in his life through art.

Mosquito, The Bite Of Passage. Dir. Brian Vincent Rhodes & Eric Cheng 6 mins

A mother and daughter mosquito go hunting together for the first time, and the daughter is desperately trying to confess that she doesn’t like blood.

About Brian Vincent Rhodes & Eric Cheng
Brian Vincent Rhodes grew up in the industrial city of Detroit, Michigan, affectionately known as “The Motor City”. Although an acclaimed youth artist and obsessed fan of animation, Rhodes did not see an immediate future in art. Pursuing other interests, he went on to study mechanical engineering and industrial design at the University of Michigan, and designed for companies and organizations such as Apple, Chrysler and NASA. After winning a film competition while working at Apple, Rhodes pursued his first love of cinema. Rhodes now works as a storyboard, character designer and previs artist. His recent projects include storyboarding a feature film for Netflix called True Memoirs of an International Assassin starring Kevin James, lead storyboard and character designer for The Leviathan Project, a virtual reality experience that premiered at the 2016 Sundance New Frontiers Festival, and previs artist for first ever live music video “Make Me Like You” by Gwen Stefani, that premiere at the 2016 Grammys. Rhodes also is an improv actor and a 2016 Diversity Fellow of the Upright Citizen’s Brigade comedy theatre. His dream is to write and direct commercials, feature films, television and virtual reality experiences, as well as occasionally perform in them.

Eric Cheng was born and raised in Beijing, China. In 2009, He made his first 2D animated short The Red in the Communication University of China (CUC) . The Red gained huge popularity on the Internet due to its innovative idea and fine quality. One year later, Eric created his second animated short Happy Anniversary as his graduation project in CUC, which won the Special Award at the 2012 TOKYO Anime Award and several others. Upon his graduation from CUC, Eric was admitted to the University of Southern California (USC), School of Cinematic Art in 2012, where he completed his third animation, Higher Sky. In Higher Sky, Eric demonstrated a deep understanding of the Chinese aesthetics, as well as a unique perspective of the Chinese cultural heritage. Shortly after the release of the animation, he earned an international name through the Student Academy Award.

Detroit Voices Selects

These stand out films were so noteworthy we knew they deserved to be a part of Cinetopia. They will be played at the Drinks By Design event at Cinema Detroit Thursday June 8th 6-8pm.

Sticks and Stones. Dir. Kathi J Moore 8 mins

An intimate look at discrimination.

About Kathi J. Moore
Director Kathi J Moore is an experienced acting professional and producer. Sticks // Stones is her first short film. With the encouragement and mentoring of filmmakers Matthew Tuppen and Jonathon D’ Ambrosio, Moore has been able to fulfill a lifelong dream by pursing documentary film making Social and political activism have always been important to Ms. Moore and an integral part of her life. Applying that passion to film making seems like a natural progression.

Wasted Conversation. Dir. Gabe Barden 6 mins

When a young girl’s wedding doesn’t go as planned she finds herself at a bus stop in the middle of the night ranting to a stranger about her feelings and desires in life.

Runaway. Dir. Harrison Heller & Tommy Kraft 20 mins
RUNAWAY is a sci-fi western short film set in the not-too-distant future where an android fights for her life as she races to get to the Free States.

About Harrison Heller & Tommy Kraft

Tommy Kraft is a director, cinematographer, and visual effects artist from Jackson, Michigan. He is the co-founder of Michigan-based production company TK2 Films and is most known for Star Trek: Horizon, the highest viewed Star Trek fan-film on YouTube.  

Harrison Heller is an award-winning writer/director born and raised in New York City. He studied film at Brown University and currently works as a video editor at People Magazine. 

Goner. Dir. Nick Stumphauzer 9 mins

When Falkner returns in an attempt to capture his little sister, Dallas Goner must use his ability to teleport to keep her safe.

About Nick Stumphauzer
A magician of eleven years, Brighton, Michigan resident Nick Stumphauzer fell in love with film at a young age and has long equated his two passions to each other. He strives to become the youngest director to win Best Director at the Academy Awards thereby unseating Damien Chazille from his current position, and is excited at the prospect of beginning production on his first feature entitled ‘Swingers’.

Tormento. Dir. Gregory Dockery 4 mins

A creative visual of an individual tormenting his mind with insecurities.

About Gregory Dockery
Gregory Dockery was born on October 11, 1991 in Detroit Michigan. He is an American actor, writer, and director. One of his first roles was Young Curtis Carson in the TNT movie Gifted Hands: the Ben Carson Story starring Oscar winner Cuba Gooding Jr. He has also done a number of commercials including big names like Chevy, Ford, and Biggby Coffee.

Milton. Dir. Zachary Marsack 7 mins

With his wife gone and his glory days behind him, Milton, a widowed WWII vet, clings to life as he deals with mortality, loneliness, and an unable body.

About Zachary Marsack
Zachary Marsack is a queer filmmaker from the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan whose often performative works focus on the physical and emotional experience of a person or character in relation to their world. Marsack attempts new narratives that are both revelatory and relatable.

Detroit Voices Retrospective Filmmakers

These Alumni return to the festival with new films and reflections on life since they were first included in the Detroit Voices program in 2014, 2015, and 2016.

Ted Houser

2014 R. Stern

2017 Task Force – Small town American deals with the opioid crisis.

About Ted Houser
Ted Houser is a filmmaker and Co-Director of the Detroit Film Society. His films have played at film festivals locally and nationally, including the Cinetopia Film Festival and Virginia Film Festival. After studying Film at the University of Michigan he relocated to Los Angeles, working in the mainstream Entertainment Industry. After moving back to Detroit, Ted has worked with local organizations like DAFT (Digital Arts Film & Television) to help student filmmakers tell their stories. 

Robert Butler

2015 Within

2017 Girl On The Mat – As competition intensifies for high school female wrestler Hayden, her strained relationship with her depressed mother is put to the test as both struggle in their own ways with the loss of Hayden’s father, an NCAA wrestling champion.

About Robert Joseph Butler
Robert Joseph Butler has made his impact immediately felt on the Michigan film landscape. In two short years he has went from the best directing award at the Motion Picture Institute of Michigan to making professional short films that have been exhibited at festivals around the country. With his tremendous vision and passion Robert has successfully directed -films, gained critical acclaim and most importantly has drawn an audience and following to his films. 

Jasmine Rivera

2014 Nain Rouge

2017 American Prophet – When Tom Gumbleton becomes the youngest bishop in America in 1968, he is suddenly appointed to a position of great authority and leadership that must guide a community in a time of great upheaval and change.

About Jasmine Rivera
Jasmine is a director, writer, producer, and actor from Detroit, Michigan. As a narrative filmmaker she has written, directed and produced media for various clients via her company Anawim Productions as well as four narrative films, including her latest, Nain Rouge, which won thesis honors at  Columbia University as well as numerous awards for Best Short Film and Best Director at film festivals around the country, including the Uptown/Detroit Independent Film Festival, Great Lakes International Film Festival, the Frankfort Film Festival, the Detroit Windsor International Film Festival, the Lake Michigan Film Competition, and Cinetopia International Film Festival.  She is currently working on a new documentary, Sisters in Justice, and her fifth narrative, American Prophet, set in 1968 Detroit to be shot in 2014 as part of a feature-length film.  Jasmine is the recipient of the Loreen Arbus Scholarship from the New York Women in Film and Television Organization and was a Junior Professional Media Fellow at the United Nations University. A recipient of the prestigious 2014 Kresge Arts Fellowship Award, she earned her Masters in Fine Arts in Film Directing at Columbia University in the City of New York. 

Christian Davis

2015 Solitude There have been many accounts of social injustices of African American Black Youth such as Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin, and Eric Gardner. The ghost of a student who was killed by the same injustice tries to find peace.

Tap Peoples 

2014 Introspective

2015 Bleach – Emma Lou is taunted and teased by fellow classmates concerning the color of her skin. As she matures into adulthood, she struggles with accepting herself, and struggles with healing those wounds of her past.

Andrea Claire Morningstar 

2014 Chris & Ariel – Two friends find happiness at a new school.