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Movie Set in Post-Katrina New Orleans Takes Top Prize at
Columbia University Film Festival

Second Line
A scene from "The Second Line," the winning film at Columbia University’s Film Festival.

Columbia University’s School of the Arts Film Division, one of the nation’s leading graduate programs for filmmaking, concluded its 20th annual film festival on Thursday night, May 10 with the top award of the evening, the Onion Best Film Award, going to "The Second Line," written and directed by John Magary and produced by Geoffrey Quan, both Columbia MFA candidates. The award, granted by the Film Festival’s presenting sponsor, The Onion, and judged by Columbia’s film division faculty, comes with a $10,000 prize.

An additional screening of selected films from the festival will take place in Los Angeles June 6 through June 8. For more on the festival, watch a video featuring Jamal Joseph, acting chair of the film division, talking about the excitement behind the festival and why anyone interested in the next generation of American filmmakers would find something to applaud.

"The Second Line" takes an unflinching look at the national tragedy of Hurricane Katrina and its devastation of New Orleans by telling the story of a man living in a FEMA trailer who resorts to extreme measures to survive when his savings are stolen. Magary filmed the story on site in New Orleans. "The Second Line" also won the Student Choice award for best film, awarded by Magary’s peers in the Columbia University MFA program, and has been nominated for a Student Academy Award, the highest honor given to student films in the nation. Columbia students have won gold medals at the Student Academy Awards seven out of the last ten years; the 2007 awards will be decided in June.

“The Columbia University Film Festival celebrates, supports and promotes the work of some of New York City’s finest film students,” said Katherine Oliver, Commissioner of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting in her introductory remarks to Thursday night’s screening and ceremony. “We are proud of their efforts and commitment to our city. This festival, and all of its projects, are certainly worthy of our ‘Made in NY’ mark of distinction.”

This year’s festival built on an incredibly successful start of the year for Columbia University: Columbia students and alumni took home top prizes at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival.

Columbia students and alumni were invited to screen a record-breaking 20 films, most of which were in competition at Sundance. The Grand Jury Prize for best dramatic film, the Festival’s top prize, went to Padre Nuestro, directed by Christopher Zalla (MFA ’04) and produced by Benjamin Odell (MFA ’04). Grace is Gone, written and directed by James C. Strouse (Current MFA candidate in Fiction Writing), won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award and the Audience Award for Best Dramatic Film. Hear and Now directed by Irene Taylor Brodsky (MS ’97) won the Audience Award for Best Documentary. Columbia also screened 10 films in this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.

A full ten percent of the short films shown at this year’s Sundance Festival came from last year’s Columbia Film Festival—an extraordinary testament to the power, originality, and quality of the Columbia student films.

Sponsors of the 20th Anniversary Columbia University Film Festival include: Variety; The Onion; New Line Cinema; The McGraw-Hill Companies; RHI Entertainment; A&E Television Networks; HBO Films; The Adrienne Shelly Foundation; The Bridges/Larson Foundation; Lifetime Entertainment Services; Twentieth Century Fox; IMAX; Kim's Video; The Ezra Litwak Fund; Panasonic; Jeff Sharp; National Board of Review; Entertainment Partners; SAGIndie; and AM-NY.

For information about all the films screened at the festival, please visit www.cufilmfest.com.

A complete list of the awards granted at last night’s screening follows.

The Onion Best Film Award: John Magary, THE SECOND LINE

New Line Cinema Best Director Award: Myna Joseph, MAN

New Line Cinema Outstanding Achievement in Filmmaking: Allison Cook, REMAINS

New Line Cinema Student Development Award: Scott Burkhardt, THE ASSASTANT

The Adrienne Shelly Award for Best Female Director: Enrica Perez, TAXISTA

A&E IndieFilms Short Documentary Award: Liz Chae, THE LAST MERMAID

James Bridges Development Award: Adam Salky, A SWEET LITTLE STORY ABOUT LOVE

HBO Films Young Producers Development Award: Ambarish Manepalli, THE OTHER WAY ROUND

IMAX Outstanding Achievement Award: Hafsteinn Sigurdsson, RATTLESNAKES

Kim’s Video Award: Nelson Kim, LONG DISTANCE

Arthur Krim Memorial Award: Jacob Jaffke and Tobey List

EP Best Student Producer Award: Jessica Daniels, MAN

EP Special Award for Producing Under Extraordinary Circumstances: Geoffrey Quan, THE SECOND LINE

Lifetime Television Network Student Development Award: Zohar Lavi, ZULA MOVE

Ezra Litwak Award for Distinction in Screenwriting: Mike Walden, DANCE FOR YOUR DADDY

National Board of Review Awards:
Matthew Linnell, SECURITY and Tobias Munthe, MUSIC FROM A FARTHER ROOM

RHI Entertainment Producers Development Award: Robert Broadhurst, GRASS STAINS

Twentieth Century Fox/Farrelly Brothers Outstanding Achievement in Comedy Award:
Hafsteinn Sigurdsson, RATTLESNAKES

Best Cinematography by a Film Division Student: Joe Murphy, VACATION

Best Film 12 Minutes or Under: Ambarish Manepalli, ISMAEL

Best Comedy Teleplay: Jon Haller, ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT: “The Cuddle Party”

Best Drama Teleplay: Austen Rachlis, THE SHIELD: “Beastin’”

Student Choice Awards:
Best Film: Second Line
Cinematography: MAN
Editing: Security
Performance: Rattlesnakes
Production Design: Vacation
Writing: Mr. A
Original Vision: 3 Boys
Honorable Mention: Taxista
Honorable Mention: Long Distance

IFP Audience Choice Awards:

Published: May 11, 2007
Last modified: May 31, 2007