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Jan. 25, 2008

Columbia Faculty Behind Two Oscar Nominations

The 80th Academy Award nominations were recently announced, and two of the most coveted honors were bestowed upon films associated with faculty from the film division of Columbia University’s School of the Arts (SoA).

Click to watch video feature of IMPACT Repertory Theatre
Harlem's IMPACT Repertory Theatre
performed Raise it Up in the film August Rush. The performance company, founded by Columbia Professor Jamal Joseph, has received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song.

(Click image for short video about Prof. Jamal Joseph and IMPACT Repertory Theatre)

Raise it Up, a song written and performed by the IMPACT Repertory Theatre, directed and co-founded by Jamal Joseph, chair of Columbia’s film division, received a nomination for Best Original Song. The song was featured in the film August Rush. Up for Best Motion Picture is Atonement, a film distributed by Focus Features, of which James Schamus, associate professor of film at SoA, is the chief executive officer. 

"[These nominations] make me proud to be the new dean of the School of the Arts,” said Carol Becker. “I have just returned from Sundance where I saw some fabulous films by Columbia alums and faculty. It is clear to me that at this moment, Columbia is arguably one of the most exciting film schools in the United States.”

Nominated for seven Academy Awards, Atonement won the 2008 Golden Globe for Best Picture—Drama, and Best Original Score. In addition to its Best Motion Picture nomination, Atonement is also up for Best Costume Design, Art Direction, Achievement in Cinematography, Achievement in Music (Original Score), Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress.

Related Links

August Rush Spotlights Teens in Harlem Arts Program, Nov. 20, 2007

Film by School of the Arts Professor Wins Top Prize at Venice Film Festival, Sept. 11, 2007

Atonement's great success here and in Europe is worth celebrating, but so too is the phenomenal success of Lust, Caution in Asia and in Europe, where the film is sweeping awards and doing huge box office,” said Professor Schamus, who co-wrote the screenplay for the latter film.

Many of the young performers from the IMPACT Repertory Theatre, a Harlem-based not-for-profit youth theater company, sang the Oscar-nominated Raise it Up in the film August Rush.  A group of 12 IMPACT young people is expected to travel to Los Angeles to perform the song at the Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday, Feb. 24.

“I am very proud of the Academy’s nomination, not for myself, but for the young people from IMPACT, who can now see that their work is, in fact, good enough to get the kind of recognition that it deserves,” said Jamal Joseph. “I want kids in Harlem to see this as a positive example of how it is possible to achieve your hopes and dreams.”

The IMPACT Repertory Theatre was founded in 1997 by Alice Arlen, Jamal Joseph, Joyce Joseph, and Voza Rivers and operates as a major branch of New Heritage Theatre Group (NHTG), one the oldest black not-for-profit theaters in the country.

In addition to collecting Oscar nominations, faculty, alumni and current students of Columbia's film division wrote, directed or produced 26 films at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

James Schamus, an associate professor at Columbia, is an Academy Award-nominated screenwriter, producer and film executive. His longtime collaboration as writer and producer for Ang Lee has resulted in nine critically acclaimed films, including Brokeback Mountain, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, The Ice Storm, The Wedding Banquet, and The Hulk. As CEO of Focus Features, Schamus oversees the financing, production and distribution of numerous films, including Oscar winners The Pianist, Lost in Translation, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Schamus has also produced or executive produced many of the most important American independent films of the past decade (among them Safe and The Brothers McMullen), including four Grand Prize winners at the Sundance Film Festival. He is also a widely published film historian and theorist. He holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of California, Berkeley and was recently named a Presidential Fellow in the Humanities at the University of Chicago.

Jamal Joseph, chair of Columbia University’s School of the Arts film division, and executive director of New Heritage Films, is an alumnus of the Sundance Film Institute Directing Lab. His screenplays credits include a semi-autobiography about his Black Panther and prison experiences, Knifehand, as well as The Boy's Choir of Harlem; Strange Justice; New York Undercover; Ali: An American Hero; Nicky Barnes; 30 Days; Drive By; Da Zone; and A Wake Up. He directed Hughes Dream Harlem for Black Starz. Joseph is a recipient of the American Film and Video Blue Ribbon, The Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame Competition, The N.B.P.C. Prized Pieces Award, two Silver Apples, and a Cine Golden Eagle. 

 - Story by Victoria Benitez