Holden Gering / SMDP Intern

Santa Monica College’s film student, Niccolo Rolim, has won “Best Student Film” 6,000 miles across the Atlantic at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival in France. Rolim’s short film, “Broken Layers,” is SMC’s first win ever in Cannes and marks another impressive production and representation of the community college’s excellent film program.

Niccolo Rolim was given the award amidst the virtual exhibition of The 24th American Pavilion Emerging Student Showcase during the 2021 Cannes Film Festival, which took place from November 14-16, 2021. The first-generation American from Riverside, said the win was thanks to both the countless hours put into the filmmaking process and SMC’s efficient production and publishing process.

SMC was one of seven U.S. film schools, and the only community college, represented in the category at the festival. The competition included student directors from much larger and prestigious film schools such as USC (consisting of a film by SMC alum Kevin Maxwell), The George Washington University, NY Film Academy, and the School of Visual Arts. Rolim said that SMC’s film school was capable of competing with the larger and affluent film programs in the category due to all 55 cast members working on “Broken Layers” having an all hands on deck mentality and being dedicated to creating an extraordinary short film.

“Winning an award like this comes down even to the guy fixing the light in the corner and the script supervisor,” said Rolim. “When you tell the students and staff at SMC what you want to achieve, they connect with it and I think that was partly the inspiration for the story.”

“Broken Layers” portrays Rosa, a half Latina, half Arab U.S. Marine, who fights bravely in the Iraq War and displays her life after serving back home.

When creating Rosa’s identity, Rolim caught inspiration from his brother who served in the U.S. military along with countless first-generation American friends who have also served in the armed forces.

“The sentiment that I wanted to get across definitely with her character background was that this is more prevalent than maybe people realize,” said Rolim. “There are more stories and backgrounds like Rosa who serve in the military than what many people think.”

“Broken Layers” sheds light onto the identity crisis that many veterans struggle with when coming back home and trying to live a “normal” life. Rolim said that both the aftermath of serving in the military and the appreciation for veterans is a mixed bag in our society today. That different regions and cities in the country appreciate veterans more than the other. This was revealed to Rolim as his family moved from Riverside at age eight, and moved to a small town in Pennsylvania.

Rolim said that growing up in a small town in Pennsylvania exposed him to a brand new patriotic culture, where serving in the military was a proud and common tradition for families. Moving from the west to the east coast at age is never easy, and Rolim said his life in Pennsylvania got lonely and cold at times. However, film was always there for him and uncovered an art form where the genres and boundaries were limitless.

“I was a lonely kid, but I always had the VHR set with a bunch of DVDs, hundreds of them,” said Rolim.

For the director of SMC’s “Broken Layers” and the winner of the “Best Student Film” award at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival, film was Rolim’s first love. Creating an award-winning film like “Broken Layers” is a tremendous stepping stone for Rolim’s career as a director and demonstrates the impressive talent that is prevalent at SMC’s film school.