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SOA Student Film Wins at Sundance Film Festival
Credit: Gordon Parks

The documentary Family Portrait, directed by Patricia Riggen, SOA'03, won the Jury Prize for Short Filmmaking at the Sundance Film Festival, which ran Jan. 21-30 in Park City, Utah. Chosen from nearly 4,000 submissions, Family Portrait was one of 82 short films selected for screening.

The film follows the Fontenelle family of Harlem who were living in extreme poverty when they were depicted in a 1968 Life magazine feature by renowned photographer Gordon Parks. Using the now-famous photos as a starting point, the film spans 35 years and includes interviews with Parks and family members Richard Fontenelle and Diana Nash, who recount their childhood memories and the challenges they have faced.

Family Portrait also screened during the 2004 Columbia University Film Festival and at Telluride, Urbanworld and the Rhode Island International Film Festival. The film won the Best Documentary Award at the Los Angeles International Shorts Film Festival and the David A. Wolper Student Documentary Award from the International Documentary Association.

Riggen's talent has been recognized before. Her directorial debut short, the Spanish-language film La Milpa, received the 2003 Student Academy Award Gold Medal and the Ariel (Mexican Academy Award) for best short film. She also was recognized as Best Latino Student Filmmaker by the Director's Guild of America for La Milpa.

This is the second time in four years that a Columbia short film has won this Sundance award: David Silver won in 2002 for Gasline. Last year, SOA alumni Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini won Sundance's Grand Jury Prize for their feature-length film American Splendor.

Another SOA filmmaker's work is also picking up accolades. Writer/director Melanie R.W. Oram's short film Shook is a finalist in Showtime's 2005 Black Filmmakers' Showcase and will air on the cable network over the next two years. Showtime also will feature a behind-the-scenes interview and on-camera introduction with Oram. The film tells the story of a woman who has just learned that she is pregnant and that her husband has been having a gay affair. Visit www.sho.com for upcoming airdates for Shook.

Published: Feb 21, 2005
Last modified: Feb 21, 2005

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