Torrington filmmakers receive international acclaim

The CAFTA group that returned home to Torrington triumphant from Pirandello film competition in Agrigento, Italy. From left to right, John Henry Sullivan III holding Zoe, Bobo Lwin, filmmaker, Trevor Llewellyn, filmmaker, Mateusz Haratyk, filmmaker, Teresa Graham-Sullivan holding Circe.

Jennifer Almquist

Torrington filmmakers receive international acclaim

TORRINGTON — Three high school seniors from Torrington, Trevor Llewellyn, Mateusz Haratyk, Bobo Lwin, and their families recently returned from a triumphant trip to Agrigento in Sicily, Italy

Inspired by the short stories by Nobel Prize-winning Italian author Luigi Pirandello (1867-1936), the three friends wrote an original screenplay and created a hand-colored silent film, titled “Nailed,” as part of the CIAO program of the Connecticut Academy of the Arts (CAFTA).

They submitted their fifteen-minute film (which features Trevor as a convincing Pirandello having a philosophical dialogue with Diogenes, played by Mateusz, and Bobo as the detective) to the literary, theatrical and film competition in Agrigento, Italy that celebrates Pirandello’s literature and theatrical genius, “Uno, Nessuno, Centomila,” which translates to One, No One, and One Hundred Thousand.

The CAFTA students competed with 1,711 students representing 289 schools from 19 countries. The students rose to the top 10 internationally. The nominated filmmakers, and their families, were invited to the event, which was held May 6-9, 2024, in Sicily.

Grant funding for the trip was arranged by Julie Scharnberg of the NWCT Community Foundation, who said, “This is the best part of grantmaking—to see what can happen when students have the opportunity to participate in initiatives like CAFTA’s CIAO Program. So much hard work went into writing and producing such an insightful film. And then to see the level of recognition the three Torrington High School seniors received at the Agrigento film festival is thrilling and truly inspiring.” The grant was made possible by the City of Torrington with funds from The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

Teresa Graham-Sullivan, (co-founder and executive director of CAFTA), her husband John Sullivan (CAFTA co-founder), their dogs Zoe and Circe, the three young filmmakers, Trevor’s mother Michelle Hass, and Mateusz’s Aunt Justyna Ferenz traveled together to Agrigento, Italy (where Pirandello lived) on this whirlwind adventure.

Their film won the special Critics Choice Prize proposed by Italy’s renowned film critic, Benjamin Biondi for their film. CAFTA students also received a Certificate of Honor for their original script from the Director General of Culture for Italy, Alessandro De Pedys, as well as scholarships for script studies in Italy. Their work was well received at the Pirandello Theater where, according to the young men, they were “treated like rockstars with standing ovations” as they made their presentation. They were interviewed by RAI TV, Italy’s National Network.

Trevor Llewellyn as Luigi Pirandello in the award-winning, hand-colored silent film, “Nailed.”Courtesy of CAFTA

CAFTA, located on Prospect Street in Torrington, is the creative treasure of Teresa Graham-Sullivan and her husband John Henry Sullivan III. CAFTA’s mission is to “provide individuals of all ages the means to identify, explore, and utilize their creative ideas and talents with excellence and high standards on a competitively global level.”

Mateusz Haratyk, whose plans now include studying filmmaking in Poland and Italy, remarked that, “I got deeply interested in philosophy because I was looking for any ways to better my life. I began reading Pirandello by accident. What reading Pirandello means to me is understanding to never underestimate the power of planting a seed. Pirandello was writing for audiences in the 1920s but the themes and concepts of his works have never been more relevant than today. His work transcends generations and should be closely studied by modern audiences. Being invited to Agrigento was truly a life-changing experience. From the beautiful award ceremony to the incredible people we met, I can assure myself that this experience will never be forgotten.”

The filmmakers researched “Novellas for A Year” by Luigi Pirandello, who wrote 40 plays, numerous short stories, novels, and is considered the father of the Theater of the Absurd. The theme for “Nailed” was chosen by reflecting on the growing violence in the world. They were drawn to the author, who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1934, and his themes concerning the senselessness of human existence, questions about death and its meaning, our ability to dominate our irrational impulses, as well as the fact that our lives are often in someone else’s hands.

After returning home, Trevor Llewellyn, who is bound for the Maine Maritime Academy in Castine, Maine, to become a pilot, commented, “Being able to return [he competed there when he was in 8th grade, also through CAFTA] to Agrigento was an amazing feeling. I’m so glad that I was able to see some old friends and meet new people. The contest was organized beautifully, and everyone involved made us feel welcomed and accepted. I am unbelievably grateful to all the organizers, judges and other contestants.”

Mayor Elinor Carbone has planned a ceremony to present the young filmmakers with a Special Commendation from their City of Torrington. This August, Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-5) will award each young man with a Special Congressional Citation in recognition for their excellence in their work presented during the Luigi Pirandello Contest 2024.

Bobo Lwin, who now plans on becoming an electrician, added, “Going to Agrigento is like a movie, from all the cheers from the audience to meeting new people and tasting the culture, I know that this experience will always be in my heart.”

Their film, “Nailed,” has been entered into this year’s prestigious Venice Film Festival as part of the Venice Biennale 2024.

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