When the Sundance Film Festival wrapped in Park City, Utah, Columbia University walked away a winner. The Grand Jury Prize for best dramatic film -- the top award for features in the Festival -- went to Padre Nuestro, written and directed by Christopher Zalla (SoA '04, film division) and produced by Ben Odell (SoA '04). Grace is Gone, written and directed by current MFA candidate in fiction writing James C. Strouse, and co-produced by Jessica Levin (SoA '02) won the Audience Award for favorite dramatic film; Strouse also won the Waldo Salt Award for best screenplay. And the Audience Award for favorite documentary went to Hear and Now, directed by 1997 Journalism school alum Irene Taylor Brodsky.
Meanwhile, in Hollywood, perhaps the year's most famous Columbia-linked film, Little Miss Sunshine, received 4 Academy Award nominations including Best Picture. Little Miss Sunshine was produced by Albert Berger (Columbia School of the Arts, MFA '83).
"This is an extraordinary moment in time for Columbia University," said Lee C. Bollinger, President of Columbia University. "The quality of films coming out of our film and writing programs has never been better, and we believe that is a direct result of the thoughtful, humanistic narrative style of film that we teach our students from day one."
The antecedents of success for Columbia University's School of the Arts Film Division can be traced back to the period when Milos Forman (Professor Emeritus) joined the School, followed by other influential teachers such as Frank Daniel and Lewis Cole. More recently, faculty members Ira Deutchman, Bette Gordon, Tom Kalin and Richard Peña have all added to the foundation for what is now seen as its strength in narrative filmmaking. Columbia has taken a radical approach to teaching film -- synthesizing writing, directing, history, theory and criticism, while encouraging students to develop a strong emphasis on storytelling regardless of their chosen discipline. This narrative strength in both literary and visual filmmaking provides a unique and welcome signature for Columbia's students within the global marketplace.
A record-breaking 20 Columbia University-linked films were selected to screen at Sundance in 2007, most of them in competition . Here is a complete list of the Columbia-affiliated films, which has increased since our last report:
- Grace is Gone, starring John Cusack and written and directed by James C. Strouse, (current MFA candidate in fiction writing) and co-produced by Jessica Levin (MFA '02)
- La Misma Luna (The Same Moon), dir. Patricia Riggen (MFA '03)
- Adrift in Manhattan, co-wr. - dir. Alfredo de Villa (MFA '98)
- Padre Nuestro, wr.-dir. Christopher Zalla (MFA '04) and produced by Ben Odell (MFA'04)
- Dedication, the directorial debut of actor Justin Theroux. Jessica Levin (MFA '02) is associate producer.
- Hear and Now, dir. Irene Taylor Brodsky (MS '97)
- War/Dance, prod. by Albie Hecht (BA '74)
- Autism Every Day, dir. Lauren Thierry (MS '84)
- Cocalero, prod. by Julia Solomonoff (MFA '00)
- Crazy Love, assoc. prod. John Miller Monzon (MFA '92)
- Salt Kiss, wr.-dir. Fellipe Gamarano Barbosa (MFA '06)
- Pop Foul, wr.-dir. Moon Molson (current MFA candidate) and produced by Jennifer Handorf ('05)
- Bomb, wr.-dir. Ian Olds (MFA'06) co-written by Paul Felten ('04) and produced by Suzi Yoonessi ('06) Phil Johnson ('04) and Nadia Benamara (current MFA candidate)
- Happiness, wr.-dir. Sophie Barthes (MIA '03)
- Bitch, wr.-dir. Lilah Vandenburgh (MFA'06) and produced by S.J. Main ('04)
- Conversion, wr.-dir. Nanobah Becker (MFA '06)
- The Dawn Chorus, wr.-dir. Hope Dickson Leach (MFA '05)
- Graceland, wr.-dir. Anocha Suwichakornpong (MFA '06)
- Make a Wish, wr.-dir. Cherien Dabis (MFA'04)
- Windowbreaker, wr.-dir. Tze Chun (BA '02)