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Columbia Film Festival Offers International and Local Flavor through 40 New SOA Student Films

By Kristin Sterling

Jessica Weigmann's 'Gardening Tips for Housewives'

The Columbia University Film Festival, featuring the work of students from the School of the Arts' (SOA) Film Division, has earned a reputation as a place to spot emerging talent. This year is no exception.

Three SOA filmmakers are up for prizes at the 2003 Student Academy Awards. Annemarie Jacir's, SOA'02, "like twenty impossibles" is a finalist in the competition's alternative category. Dennis Lee and Jowan Carbin are regional finalists in the narrative category for their respective films, "Jesus Henry Christ" and "Welcome to Life," which will screen during the Columbia Festival.

Jacir's film has also been selected for the Cannes Film Festival in France, May 14-25. At Cannes, "like twenty impossibles" will screen in the prestigious Cinefondation Screening, which selects approximately 15 films from emerging filmmakers from film schools around the world. In the film, Jacir investigates the nature of documentary productions, the creative process and the reality of making films in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

In addition, Randall Dottin's "A-Alike" is receiving recognition. It is one of five finalists for the HBO Short Film Competition at the American Black Film Festival, and Gustavo Moraes has been named the Fuji Filmmaker of the Year at the Short Shorts Film Festival for "Badeado Em Estorias Reais/Based on a True Story."

All of these films will screen during the 2003 Columbia University Film Festival, which runs from April 28 through May 9. Of the 40 films and digital videos included in the festival, eight were filmed outside the United States, in countries ranging from Italy and Hong Kong to Nigeria and Brazil. Among many topics, the international films follow an Albanian family who flees war-torn Macedonia for Italy ("Maree/Tides"); offer a poignant personal account of the Tiananmen Square uprising ("Personal Rain"); look at middle class life and family relationships in Nigeria ("Something Else"), and analyze 1970s Brazil, when the country was under a dictatorship ("Baseado Em Estorias Reais/Based on a True Story").

Three other films explore immigration and the sense of being a stranger in a foreign land: "Alma" depicts a young couple from Mexico struggling to find work and survive in New York; "Yume No Ato/What Is Left of the Dream" follows three women in a detention center who are candidates for immigration, and "Pilgrims" is the story of two lone visitors to New York, one from Beijing and other from Belgrade, who share a brief moment of tenderness.

Closer to home, several filmmakers address New York City community issues. Gentrification in New York neighborhoods, particularly Williamsburg, is depicted in "Fancy Girl" and "Corporate Dawgz." Still other films portray classic New York issues -- disputes with the landlord ("Fade to Black") and ethical dilemmas by publicists ("Nondisclosure"). The events of September 11 and their individual reactions inspired Tom Glynn and Ayad Stehle-Akhtar to create "Life Document 2: Identity."

A scene from Marianne Demarco's 'Goose Down'

"The 16th annual Columbia University Film Festival offers a glimpse of the diverse work of talented, young filmmakers who are on the brink of major careers," says Bruce W. Ferguson, dean of the School of the Arts. "More than half of the films focus on persons of color, putting the Festival on the cutting edge of independent and breakover films. These are not the filmmakers of tomorrow. These are the filmmakers of today."

The Columbia University Film Festival begins with screenings at Loews 34th Street (between 8th and 9th Avenues), Monday, April 28 - Thursday, May 1, at 5:15 p.m. and 8:15 p.m. daily. Eight different film programs will be offered throughout the week. On Monday, May 5, the Faculty Selects program, featuring films selected by the Film Division faculty as the best of the 2003 Festival, will screen at 3:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.

On Friday, May 9, Faculty Selects Screenplay Readings will be presented at 7:30 p.m. in the McGraw-Hill Auditorium, 1221 Avenue of the Americas at 49th Street. Preceding the readings, at 7:00 p.m., alumni Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, the team that created "American Splendor," the 2003 Grand Prize winner at Sundance, will receive the Andrew Sarris Award. The festival will continue in Los Angeles on June 2-3. More than $110,000 in awards will be presented to students throughout the Festival.

Films from the 2002 Columbia Festival went on to screen at prestigious international festivals, including: Berlin, Cannes, Clermont-Ferrand, Palm Springs, Sao Paulo, Sundance, Telluride and Tribeca. Also from the 2002 festival, Patricia Riggen's "La Milpa/The Cornfield" won a Mexican Academy Award and is a regional finalist for the 2003 Student Academy Awards competition. Columbia film students have won Student Academy Award Gold Medals in five of the last six years.

Complete information about the festival, schedules, films and filmmakers are available at www.cufilmfest.com. For more information, call 212-854-1547. Admission to each program is $10 and tickets are available at the Loews 34th Street box office or via www.fandango.com. Tickets for the May 9 screenplay readings may be reserved by calling 212-854-1547.

The festival is sponsored by @radical.media, The Bridges/Larson Foundation, Comedy Central, Eastman Kodak, Guoxi Fu, Hallmark Entertainment, HBO Films, IMAX Corporation, Kim's Video, Lifetime Entertainment Services, Eleanor and Eugene Litwak and Family, Loews Cineplex Entertainment, The McGraw-Hill Companies, Microsoft Corp., National Board of Review, New Line Cinema, Pacific Design Center, Screen Actors Guild/SAG Indie, Tribeca Entertainment and Twentieth Century Fox.

Published: Apr 28, 2003
Last modified: Apr 29, 2003

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