The Ascent

In-Person Event Date

March 7, 2020 - 7:00pm
Q and A with Filmmaker following the film session:
Val Bodurtha
Film Length:
Film Language:
Premier Status: 
Date Completed: 
June, 2018


New Haven International Film Festival New Haven, CT May 18, 2019 Sneak Peek United States

TRAVIS HOWLAND is a sophomore at his top-tier college, pledging one of the most exclusive fraternities on campus. He and his friend CALEB attend the last night of hell week, a final round of intense hazing led by frat stars MIKE, NATE, and BRIAN, the president of Kappa Chi.

The fraternity leadership puts the younger members through several grueling trials of intense drinking and physical torment over the course of the night. Eventually Caleb and Travis take a break, heading upstairs, where Caleb admits he has doubts about pledging. Travis shrugs them off and exits to the balcony to relieve himself.

It is revealed, jumping forward in time, that something went horribly wrong that night, that Mike, Nate, and Brian face legal repercussions for hazing, and someone wakes up in the hospital to a concerned doctor. The school faces scrutiny for the risk fraternities pose to students, and Brian’s dad fights for the frat to remain active on campus. It’s clear that, whatever happened, it resulted in the chapter’s expulsion.

Flashing back to the party, LUCAS, another frat boy, leaves the party to smoke outside, and comes across Travis’ limp form, fallen from the balcony above. Lucas and Brian carry Travis inside and set him on the couch, despite Caleb’s wishes that they take him to a hospital. The next morning, the frat members are horrified to discover Travis’ condition intensely worsened, and call him an ambulance.

The rest of the film delves into Travis’ past, how he might not be so innocent himself, and how what happened that night might not have been accidental at all.


Sarah Larson

Sarah Larson is a recent student of history and economics at the University of Chicago. She has received grants to directed and edited four short films, including a documentary short shot in South Africa. She also interned for  HarperCollins Publishers and McCune Design, an academy-award winning special effects company. Outside of film, Sarah is also a freelance visual artist and writer.

Val Bodurtha

 Val Bodurtha is a recent student of classics at the University of Chicago. Val is a published author and active performer and producer with a specialty in comedy. Her writing has garnered more than two dozen writing awards and she has had three of her plays staged. In Chicago, Val has been a mainstay of Off-Off Campus, the oldest collegiate sketch and improv troupe in the country. She has opened for major headliners such as Jerrod Carmichael, and she interned the summer of 2017 at Second City. More information can be found on her website,