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It's a Wrap: 17th Annual Columbia Film Festival Winners Announced
Junebug and Hurricane , written and directed by James Ponsoldt, garnered several awards and will screen at the Atlanta Film Festival.

Film Division students received $110,000 in awards at the 17th Annual Columbia University Film Festival for works that ranged from a woman's daily struggle to care for her child and her mother, who has Alzheimer's disease (Extreme Mom) to a documentary in which members of a Harlem family recount the challenges they have faced since Gordon Parks photographed them in 1968 for Life magazine (Family Portrait).

The student-run festival, presented by the Film Division of the School of the Arts, included original short films and screenplay readings. It took place from May 1-7 in New York City and then headed west to Los Angeles June 2-3.

Student filmmaker Joyce Draganosky, whose film Extreme Mom swept many of the festival's awards May 7, based her work on growing up in a household where her mother raised her while also caring for her elderly grandmother.

"It's a movie about the circle of life, and a woman stuck in the middle of trying to care for both ends of that spectrum," Draganosky said. "The situation is such that the child is learning activities and the grandmother is losing activities."

Wrigley, written and directed by Oliver Refson, was named a Faculty Select.

Extreme Mom was named a Faculty Select, one of the short films chosen by the Film Division faculty as the best of the 2004 festival. Extreme Mom also received the Guoxi Fu Best Film Award, the Lifetime Student Filmmaker Award and one of the National Board of Review Awards. In addition, prior to the festival screening, Extreme Mom received the Cinecolor Award. Adam Stehle's Soul in a Suitcase and Keith Goldberg's American Exquisite also won National Board of Review Awards.

Another big festival winner was Patricia Riggen's documentary Family Portrait, which received the New Line Cinema Award for Outstanding Achievement in Filmmaking. In this moving and insightful documentary, Richard Fontanelle and Diana Nash -- the only surviving members of the family originally photographed in 1968 by Gordon Parks -- render their own family portrait as they recount the challenges the family faced. Riggen, Parks and Fontanelle, who now works as a superintendent for Columbia University , recently were featured on NPR's "Tavis Smiley Show."

Riggen spoke about the sadness that surrounding the tale of the Fontanelle family, and the purpose of her documentary: "Right now, there are a million black kids that live in extreme poverty in this country. So what I'm hoping is to call some attention to that because what happened [in 1968] is still happening right now."

While film screenings comprise the majority of the festival, screenplay readings were the focus May 6, with students reading excerpts from their feature-length scripts. Rachel Vine won the Comedy Central Award for Best Comedy Screenplay for "Miranda Duran." Jennifer Monn won the Ezra Litwak Award for Distinction in Screenwriting for "Hinged on Stars." After the readings, SOA alumna Sabrina Dhawan, '02, received the Andrew Sarris Award. Dhawan wrote Monsoon Wedding, one of the top ten highest-grossing foreign films of all time in the United States and the winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. At the Los Angeles screenings, SOA alumnus Albert Berger, '03, received the Andrew Sarris Award. Berger is affiliated with Bona Fide Productions, where he has produced critical and box-office successes, including Cold Mountain , Election and King of the Hill.

The Columbia University Film Festival has earned an international reputation as a launching pad for emerging talent. Columbia Film Division students have won Student Academy Award Gold Medals in six of the past seven years.

Films from the 2003 Columbia Festival have gone on to screen at prestigious international festivals including: Berlin , Cannes , New York , Palm Springs , Sundance and Telluride. Recent films by Film Division alumni include Laurel Canyon, written and directed by Lisa Cholodenko, SOA'97; Identity, directed by James Mangold, SOA'99; and 2004 Academy Award nominee and winner of the 2003 Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, American Splendor, written and directed by Shari Springer Berman, SOA'95, and Robert Pulcini, SOA'94.

Among the leading Columbia Film Festival award winners:

Faculty Selects : The following were chosen by Film Division faculty as Best of the 2004 Festival -- Loopy, directed by Seth Michael Donsky; Extreme Mom, directed by Joyce Draganosky; American Exquisite, directed by Keith Goldberg; Nostradamus and Me, directed by Eilis Kirwan; Wrigley, directed by Oliver Refson; Family Portrait, directed by Patricia Riggen; God Is Good, directed by Caryn Waechter.

Faculty Honors : The following were noted by Film Division faculty as Outstanding Works -- The Hill, directed by Deborah Chow; Orson, directed by David Pastor Vallejo; Junebug and Hurricane, directed by James Ponsoldt; Groomed, directed by Joseph Raso; Seibutsu (Still: Life), directed by Joe Turner Lin; and then one night…, directed by Jessica Weigmann.

IMAX Outstanding Achievement Award : Orson, directed by David Pastor Vallejo.

Kim's Video Award : Junebug and Hurricane, directed by James Ponsoldt.

Arthur Krim Memorial Award : Jennifer Grausman and Daniel Weisinger.

New Line Cinema Award for Best Director : Caryn Waechter for God is Good.

Tribeca Entertainment Outstanding Achievement in Screenwriting Award : "Nostradamus and Me," written by Eilis Kirwan.

Twentieth Century Fox/Farrelly Brothers Outstanding Achievement in Comedy Award : Groomed, directed by Joseph Raso.

Windows Media Award for Outstanding Digital Filmmaking : American Exquisite, directed by Keith Goldberg.

James Bridges Development Award : The Wannabe, directed by Althea Wasow.

Hallmark Entertainment Producers Development Award : Standing in the Current, produced by Lorenzo Gaines.

HBO Young Producers Development Award : Passage, produced by Xu Ke.

New Line Cinema Development Award : Live at Five, directed by Averie Storck.

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Published: June 09, 2004
Last modified: Jan 10, 2005

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