By: Carter Ottele

On Saturday night, Grinnell College students flocked to the Harris Center to watch a collection of short films. Shoving, yelling, and pulling hair, the students plowed into the Cinema in a drunken stupor. Their voices crescendoed as the projector turned on, a faint glow spread across the screen, and the title of Grinnell’s newest favorite tradition emerged:

ZitHead.

For decades, the Titular Head Film Festival (often abbreviated to TitHead) had dominated Grinnell’s cinema scene with its promises of biting social commentary, unrestrained creative expression, and tits. But this year, students seemed far more excited to attend the ZitHead festival instead.

“I was getting tired of TitHead,” said Juan Won ’23. “At first it seemed kinda cool. Like, I’m seeing my classmates naked! But then I went and it was like, oh—I’m seeing my classmates naked.”

“Some people were telling me that ZitHead was going to be gross, and that I should see TitHead instead,” said Erin Landry ’25. “But what’s grosser: a pimple, or Brady from Intro to Art History holding a bottle of Hawkeye and strip dancing in the South loggia to “You’ve Got A Feeling” by the Black-Eyed Peas?”

Indeed, the reactions to this weekend’s festival encompassed a wide range of emotions, but disgust was hardly one of them. Spectators seemed thrilled by the students’ films, which consisted almost entirely of pimple popping close-ups. 

The jury selected “Pore-trait of a Lady’s Face on Fire” as the grand prize winner. The film, directed by Franky Coppola ’24 and starring an anonymous actor, depicts a thrilling journey across the main character’s acne-covered face. But it also includes multiple subplots, including a passionate affair between the main character and the United States Ambassador to Poland. 

“I’m so honored to take part in this festival,” said Coppola. “It’s truly something special.”

Coppola added that they had drawn inspiration from their Dutch Literature class. “We read this really cool 19th century South African novelist who talked about the façade of the self. And I thought, ‘What reveals the façade of the self better than pimples?’ So I really considered those ideas when designing my film.”

Pierce Piccolo ’24, the founder of ZitHead, came up with the idea for the event last year. He had submitted a project to TitHead that had disguised a call for violent revolution within a pimple popping video. When the directors of last year’s TitHead rejected the film on grounds of public safety, Piccolo decided to found his own festival.

“The guiding principle of ZitHead is freedom of speech,” Piccolo said. “Like, seriously, do whatever you want. So long as it includes zits.”

Plans are already underway for next year’s celebration. Piccolo hopes to include a ClevelandPitHead division of the festival, featuring only videos filmed in Cleveland Pit.