When he joined a fraternity in freshman year at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, Miami native Alejandro Victor Pallares never imagined someday he’d be shooting a film about the process.

Now Pledge, centered on members of a fictional fraternity, will debut at this year’s Canes Film Festival, April 29-May 1, at the University of Miami Bill Cosford Cinema.

Pallares, 23, a second-year graduate student in the UM School of Communication motion pictures program, is scriptwriter and director of the film, his first, though he’s worked on the films of others. 

“I pulled the name directly from the script,” Pallares says. “The story is about new members of a fraternity, known as pledges.”

The short drama spotlights the dangers of hazing. “My main motivation for making this film was curiosity,” he says. “Entering college, I knew very little about the Greek system and its history.”

“As time went by, I learned more, and what made the strongest impression was that too many young men have died during the rituals involved in joining a fraternity. Researching that led me to ask why those incidents happen, and my film explores that question.”

In the movies, fraternities are often portrayed in a comedic light, e.g., Animal House with John Belushi, but Pledge depicts another potential side, says Alejandro: “I hope it can serve an educational purpose for young men entering college.”

Making the film created lasting friendships, he notes, in direct contrast to what was being filmed.

“The cast really bonded during the days we were filming the hazing scenes,” Pallares notes. “So ironic, because here we are, making this movie about what can go wrong in hazing, and people pretending to be hazed are bonding with each other as well as the ones pretending to haze them.”

The film shoot was completed during UM’s spring break, March 7-11, in Austin, Texas, so Pallares could collaborate with his younger sister, a senior theater major at the University of Texas. “She had ties with college-aged talent,” says Pallares. “And I really wanted to work with my sister because she brings a certain perspective as an actor that is invaluable to a film.”

“We had talked about working on something together ever since I decided to go to film school, so this was the perfect opportunity.”

The film’s budget was $10,000, which he sees as reasonable. Though born in Miami, Pallares was raised in Harlingen, Texas, about 20 minutes from the U.S.-Mexico border in the Rio Grande Valley.

He says he had a splendid childhood with his family, who loved traveling. By the time he entered college, Pallares had visited more than 30 countries.

Pallares earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism at Northwestern’s famed Medill School, and decided in his senior year to study film at UM.

“I had been introduced to the potential of video storytelling through my journalism coursework,” he says, “and I really latched onto it.”

Pallares likes UM’s film program because of its “holistic nature.”

“You do have to choose a concentration [e.g. directing, screenwriting, editing, etc.],” he says, “but you’re not restricted from taking courses in other disciplines as you might be in other programs.

“This will be the first year I’m submitting a film myself. I had a great experience when participating in the films screened at the festival before.”

“The Canes Film Festival is simply great,” Pallares says, smiling, “It gives students a chance to celebrate their work with their peers and showcase it to industry professionals. I’m thankful to all the people who work hard to make Canes happen!”