Iowa State MFA student awarded at Rome film festival

September 16, 2022 - by Sarah Igram

Photo of Amenda Tate


Iowa State graduate student Amenda Tate was inspired to create her first short film, “Sapient_2.021,” in 2020. This month, her film was featured at the X World Short Film Festival in Rome, where it was shortlisted for three awards and ultimately won the award for Best Art-Conceptual-Experimental Mid-Short.

“It was quite an exciting honor to be included in this festival! The X World Film Festival was the first time sharing my work with an international audience,” Tate, a second-year MFA student in Integrated Visual Arts and a research assistant in the Digital Accessibility Lab, said. “In addition, the film includes the creative efforts of other talented Iowa artists; this feels like a way to help uplift my collaborative peers.”

“Sapient_2.021” combines dance, robotics, and visual art to explore what it means to be human in a tech-saturated world. It examines ideas surrounding labor, control, empathy, and human rights. She began to work on the film amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and her work expanded as she questioned, “How has the pandemic altered our ideas about labor and work? What rights do essential workers have? What rights are all humans entitled to?”

Initially, Tate planned to stage a live performance of her work, but as COVID-19 cases rose, she chose to instead create her first film. She staged three solo dances at the Des Moines Civic Center and the Stoner Theater for the production, which also features her motion-controlled painting robot, Manibus.

“One silver lining was partnering with the Des Moines Performing Arts venues while they were closed to the public,” she said. “I had the privilege and opportunity to utilize and highlight their amazing and beautiful empty spaces in the film during that downtime. Several of their staff members assisted with technical and production aspects as well.”

Although Tate created most of “Sapient_2.021” before beginning her graduate studies, she completed her post-production work during the first year of her program. She then used FilmFreeway to seek out film festivals that were accepting entries from her genre of work.

After completing her master’s degree, Tate plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Human Computer Interaction at Iowa State. The Integrated Visual Arts program has allowed her to explore the intersection of arts and sciences, and she hopes to continue that as a doctoral student. She is also open to creating more films in the future.

“Using video to document my performative work has been part of my repertoire for a while, and I am open to seeing where these new opportunities in experimental film may lead,” she said.

Tags: integrated visual arts, college of design