Film Studies and Production

Oakland University student’s short film to be featured at 2021 Freep Film Festival

Created by Max Folino, ‘Small Town Syndrome’ is a film about life in his hometown

icon of a calendarSeptember 14, 2021

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Oakland University student’s short film to be featured at 2021 Freep Film Festival
Max Folino
Max Folino's film, "Small Town Syndrome," will be a part of the lineup of the 2021 Freep Film Festival, which will take place Sept. 22-26.

“Small Town Syndrome,” a documentary-style short film created by Oakland University student filmmaker Max Folino, will be a part of the lineup of the 2021 Freep Film Festival, which will take place Sept. 22-26 and feature a mix of indoor, outdoor and at-home virtual screenings.

“I would not have had the ability or drive to create my film if it weren’t for the OU Cinema Studies staff,” Folino said. “My first film class at OU was with Professor Julia Yezbick. By the following year, it was in her class in which I created ‘Small Town Syndrome.’” She encouraged me to submit it to Grizzdance, and I thought she was crazy. Well, here we are. Professors (Justin) Reifert, Yezbick, (Brendan) Kredell, and (Annie) Sullivan have shown the most open support for my endeavors. Their encouragement is what has kept me confident in my studies and I hope I can continue to make them proud.”

Folino’s film, “Small Town Syndrome” is a short, personal essay film about life in his hometown of New Buffalo, Mich. The film can be viewed on YouTube.

“I’ve lived all my life in New Buffalo, where I worked in my mother’s video rental store from ages 4-16,” Folino said. “My love for film clearly developed from there. I’m currently 20 and am entering my senior year at Oakland. Having rarely left the county in which I lived, moving across the state to live on Oakland’s campus was the closest thing to culture shock I could have experienced. It was important for me though, as a queer teenager living in a space that lacked diversity and acceptance, to find a place where my voice could be translated into something as beautiful as film.”

For Folino, “Small Town Syndrome” encapsulates his love/hate relationship with his hometown, and what it means to escape familiar places where there is nothing left to explore and where there is no more room to grow.

“It has been construed as pessimistic, and that’s okay,” Folino said. “The film is meant to be interpreted and related to in any way the viewer seems fit. I won Best Student Film at Grizzdance Film Festival this year and to think that I would have another opportunity to be included in another film festival in the first place is seriously shocking. I am so grateful to the university staff for nominating my film and I am still recovering from the shock of learning my film was included in the festival’s Real Fresh Competition.”

The new Real Fresh showcase and competition spotlights the work of student documentary filmmakers from Michigan State University, Oakland University, University of Michigan, University of Windsor and Wayne State University. Faculty representatives from each of the five schools nominated a total of 26 student films. From that group, a Freep Film Festival jury chose 10 shorts as representing some of the best documentary work from the region’s colleges.

“The Freep Film Festival has been around for some time, of course, and we’ve enjoyed a close working relationship with them for a few years now,” said Brendan Kredell, associate professor of Film Studies and Production at Oakland University.

“So when the folks at Freep reached out about an idea they had about programming featuring films from area universities, we were naturally excited to take part. It’s an amazing opportunity to showcase student work to an audience around metro Detroit, and also for our students to participate within a community of filmmakers from across the area and the world.”

This year’s Freep Film Festival lineup features 19 features 19 feature-length films and 19 shorts, most making their Michigan premiere. For more information about the festival, visit

To learn more about OU’s Film Studies and Production program, visit

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