DePaul University Newsline > Sections > DeBuzz > Headhunter's Daughter wins at Sundance

Sundance Film Festival awards top prize to DePaul grad for short film

Woman riding on horse
The short film “The Headhunter’s Daughter” won a top prize at Sundance Film Festival and was written and directed by a DePaul alumnus. (Image courtesy of Don Josephus Raphael Eblahan)
T​he 2022 Sundance Film Festival has honored DePaul alumnus and filmmaker Don Josephus Raphael Eblahan with the Short Film Grand Jury Prize for “The Headhunter’s Daughter.” The film’s director and screenwriter, Eblahan graduated from DePaul’s School of Cinematic Arts in 2019 with a B.F.A in Film & Television. Gary Novak, director of the School of Cinematic Arts, calls the festival one of the top in the world. 

“Movers and shakers are watching the films that are screened there,” Novak says.

In a recent interview with the College of Computing and Digital Media, Eblahan says he gravitated toward “tough” courses and film theory while at DePaul. “I was lucky to land the right professors who I consider as my lifelong mentors,” Eblahan says.

Born in the Philippines of Ifugao and Visayan descent, Eblahan’s works explore themes of trauma, spirituality and nature told through the cosmic lens of post-colonial spaces and Indigenous identities. “The Headhunter’s Daughter” follows an aspiring country singer from the Cordillera region of the Philippines who travels to the big city of Baguio to audition for a TV show.

“In this film, we see her traverse a post-colonial world and see that through the eyes and perspective of an Indigenous person in the Philippines,” Eblahan tells Sundance. He links success to staying connected to his home and identity. 

“This usually grounds me and helps me circle back to my priorities and why I’m making films,” Eblahan says. “And it breeds motivation to keep fighting through tough on-set labor and pushing ideas forward.”

Novak taught Eblahan in a screenwriting course. “What makes Don’s work stand out is that this is a personal film. With all great work, the filmmaker is personally connected to it, and there’s a story they have to tell,” says Novak, who also noted Eblahan’s talent for collaboration.

In 2021, Eblahan’s film "Hilum" won the Student Prize and received Special Mention from the International Jury at Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival. Eblahan is based both in the Philippines​ in the city of La Trinidad, as well as Chicago. He also practices as a musician, composer and a graphic artist. For more, visit


Kristin Mathews is Assistant Director of News and Integrated Content. Emily Holland is a senior in the School of Cinematic Arts and a student employee in the Production Office.