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Monica Demes, who graduated from the David Lynch MFA in 2015, has been winning awards and gaining attention at international film festivals for the film she created while a student at MIU – “Lilith’s Awakening.”

Having first won awards in the Iowa Motion Picture Association for best director, best actress, and best cinematography, her film was selected for the prestigious Internacional Film Festival of Ourense, which is one of the 10 biggest film festivals in Spain and which focuses on art house films.

“It was amazing to see ‘Lilith’ received so positively at the festival, in such a beautiful and fancy place,” Monica said. “And it was my first time among filmmakers who had won awards at big European film festivals. I met a lot of interesting people.”

Her film was also selected for Lund Fantastic Film Festival, which is the biggest horror film festival of Scandinavia.

Her prestigious awards include best director from the Optical Theatre Festival in Rome, and best film and best director from Boca do Inferno at a festival in São Paulo, Brazil. In addition, the film was listed on five different film-related websites as one of the best of 2016.

“Lilith’s Awakening” is a haunting yet beautiful vampire film that uses a female as the vampire character.

“I think they love that it’s a gender film using a vampire as a symbol for women’s empowerment,” Monica said. “Instead of the old association of the vampire with something bad, we use it as a symbol for women’s liberation.”

She noted that “Lilith’s Awakening” is a student film competing among the first line of professional horror and art films, despite being shot with students and with a very low budget. She hopes to find distribution for it after making the rounds of 2017 festivals.

Monica is now working intensely on two screenplays – both thrillers with women protagonists. “I hope the success of ‘Lilith’ means my next film will be bigger and will fly much higher,” she said.

“MIU had a great impact in my life, not only because I love Fairfield and the film reflects the love I felt for the Midwest, but also because meditation helped me in my creative process and in making me feel confident that I would accomplish my goal,” she said. “It’s as if Fairfield has this mysterious power that makes you focus on your work and at the same time it makes you grow as a human being.”

“Lilith’s Awakening” included student Sophia Woodward as the protagonist (for which she won the IMPA award for best actress) and Brazilian pop singer Barbara Eugenia as Lilith. Also acting in the film were student Lloyd Wilcox and Eden West, the associate director of the MFA program. MFA student Gregor Kresal was the cinematographer.

Jim Karpen is a writer by trade, with a special focus on technology. He has a Ph.D. in English and studied the impact of the computerization of language. In addition to writing for iPhone Life magazine, he has also been writing a column about the Internet for the Iowa Source since 1994. He also edits and publishes the MIU Review.