The Search wins Best Student Documentary at DOCUTAH

Photo: Loi Almeron

Photo: Loi Almeron

These have been very busy weeks, but wanted to share with all The Search fans that my doc has taken home the Best Student Film Award at the DocUtah International Film Festival.

It was a wonderful festival that I had the chance to attend and experience how the audiences reacted to my documentary. I also had the opportunity to chat with the audience and share more about Argentinean history.

Photo: Loi Almeron

Photo: Loi Almeron

DOCUTAH documents tragedy, laughter and love

By Brian Passey

Last week I had my most complete DOCUTAH experience yet, seeing two of the Shorts Program collections and five other stand-alone films. Yet I still only saw about one-sixth of what the documentary film festival offered.

DOCUTAH is still one of Southern Utah’s newest arts festivals but it’s already proving to be one of the region’s flagship events. If you think you’re not a “documentary person,” you may want to give it a try next year. Just in the 13 films I saw there was a wide variety.

My favorite film of the bunch seemed to appeal to the judges as well. “Off the Rails” not only won the Best Picture award but also Best Direction. It’s a feature-length film about a man with Asperger’s syndrome whose love of all things transit has led to dozens of arrests through the years for impersonating subway and bus drivers in New York City.

Filmmaker Adam Irving speaks about his film "Off the Rails" on Thursday at the Electric Theater in St. George. (Photo: Brian Passey / The Spectrum & Daily News)

Filmmaker Adam Irving is certainly deserving of the Best Direction award. He did a masterful job, telling the story in an entertaining way while showing both the lightness and darkness in his subject’s life. There’s a wonderful balance of drama and humor, solid cinematography and a creative use of animation and reenactment segments.

Irving attended the Thursday night showing of “Off the Rails” at the Electric Theater in St. George and answered questions following the screening. After listening to him, it was even more obvious that he deserved the award. On camera, his subject, Darius McCollum, was a delight, full of wonderful quotes. However, Irving said he filmed 40 hours of footage over the course of four years and much of what Darius had to say was rather mundane. So his persistence truly paid off.

“Train Man,” a feature film based on Darius’ story is planned with Julia Roberts slated to play his attorney. Personally, though, I’m hoping to see “Off the Rails” go on to bigger things with an Oscar nod for Best Documentary Feature.

Sadly I missed DOCUTAH’s Best Foreign Film winner, “Free Speech, Fear Free,” and most of the other award winners. However, I did see “The Search,” a wonderful Spanish-language film from Argentina that won Best Student Picture. “The Search” was both terrifying and heartwarming as it told of one grandmother’s search for her grandson, who was illegally adopted after his mother was executed in the Argentinean Dirty War.

But I really enjoyed some of the other films that didn’t win any awards. Other selections from the Shorts Programs included “West Empire” and “The Dance of the Infants,” both of which featured some truly spectacular cinematography, creating a visual feast.

One of the most moving films was “HomeGirls,” which told the stories of two women who were formerly involved in gangs and drugs but were now trying to rebuild their lives with the help of Homeboy Industries. I noticed that some audience members left as one of the women was telling her story, which involved a number of expletives but also describe a horrific beating and sexual assault perpetrated by the father of her children. I did not enjoy listening to it either, but I feel like that is why we have documentary films: to learn about the reality of the human condition … in all its beauty and ugliness.

On a much lighter note, the first film I watched was “A Town, A Gangster, A Festival,” which is the delightful story of a small town in Iceland with an annual Al Capone Festival. Now that DOCUTAH is over I can reveal that this and a handful of other films were actually mockumentaries, not documentaries. They were fake. And this one was among them. Many audience members didn’t seem to catch on until they recognized “Saturday Night Live” and “Portlandia” cast member Fred Armisen, one of the creators behind the “Documentary Now!” mockumentary series.

Well played, DOCUTAH. Well played.

Another highlight for me was “Finding My Tribe.” I’ll admit I hadn’t planned to see it until I found out the filmmaker, Taylor Doose, was the son of Ernie Doose and Cindy Still of the DiFiore Center here in St. George. But I’m so glad I went. The documentary featured a number of people with tattoos talking about why them got them and what they mean to them. They also spoke of the concerned looks and more outright persecution they sometimes face because of their appearance. By humanizing his characters, Doose made it possible for those who judge people with tattoos to instead see them as people, parents, students, employees, etc., rather than just walking stereotypes.

The question and answer session after “Finding My Tribe” was almost as entertaining as the documentary itself. Doose spoke eloquently about his film, which was a student project, and even made the audience laugh quite a bit with his affable personality. I’m certain some audience members walked out of there reassessing their own stereotypes about people with tattoos.

I sure hope so.

Email reporter Brian Passey at brian@thespectrum.com and follow him at Facebook.com/PasseyBrian or on Twitter and Instagram, @BrianPassey. Call him at 435-674-6296.

Daphne Matziaraki and Melina Tupa Named Finalists for Student Academy Awards

Melina Tupa’s neighbors had to check on her when she found out that her film, “The Search,” was up for an Academy Award.

Tupa (‘16) said, “When I opened the email I started jumping and screaming like crazy, the neighbors texted to see if everything was all right at my place.”

Things are more than all right for Tupa and fellow J-School documentary graduate Daphne Matziaraki (‘16), who are among a bumper crop of Berkeley alums, professors and lecturers nominated for major industry honors this year.

Tupa’s and Matziaraki’s films were chosen as finalists in the documentary category of the Student Academy Awards, in which the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences selects the best student films in the country. The Student Oscars will be awarded in Los Angeles in September.

J-School Dean Edward Wasserman gave high praise to the filmmakers and their faculty, from ProfessorsJon Else and Orlando Bagwell, to the students’ production/technical advisor Christopher O’Dea. "This is such a tremendous honor both for our graduates and for our documentary program, which continues to turn out work of exceptional quality and strong editorial reach. The School couldn't be prouder of Daphne and Melina, and of their great teachers."

Both films explore crises unfolding in the filmmakers’ home countries--Argentina for Tupa and Greece for Matziaraki--and examine the human toll exacted from characters caught in the middle of them.

Tupa’s film, “The Search,” focuses on activist Estela de Carlotto’s quest to find her grandchild 37 years after her daughter was kidnapped and murdered during Argentina’s “Dirty War.”

Tupa said the idea came to her in a class at the J-School. “In one of his last videography lectures I remember [documentary professor] Jon Else saying that sometimes you have to reinterpret reality for a new generation or a new audience. I remember thinking, ‘There are so many people who haven’t heard about the darkest chapter of Argentina’s history. Maybe I am the right person to tell this story.’ ”

Making that concept a reality was more difficult. Tupa’s central character only agreed to participate after Tupa sent a handwritten letter and called the woman’s secretary every other day for months. “I’m very proud of my determination,” she said.

Tupa will screen “The Search” at the DOCUTAH festival (International Documentary Film Festival), at Dixie State University in St. George, Utah, later this month. She is currently working with Mexican filmmaker Bernardo Ruiz as a researcher for his feature documentary about an Argentine forensic anthropology team.

Daphne Matziaraki's film “4.1 Miles” portrays a day in the life of a Greek coast guard captain on the island of Lesbos, who is caught in the middle of the biggest refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.

Matziaraki said that even though she felt the media was “over-saturated” in its coverage of the refugee crisis, she wanted to tell a different side of the story. “As a Greek filmmaker I felt there was something missing from the coverage. I wanted to make a film that would capture the strength and determination of the unknown heroes working tirelessly in an impossible situation.”

Matziaraki’s hope is that the nomination will help get her film before a wider audience. “I’m excited by this opportunity because I believe this is one of the most pressing humanitarian crises of our times,” she said.

Like Tupa, Matziaraki credited the J-School with empowering her to take on such an important and difficult film to produce. “I’m very proud to be a member of the J-School family and to have learned and evolved in this exceptional environment.”

Producing films at this level while in graduate school is not an endeavor for the faint of heart, or light of purse. Both of these filmmakers received production funding from Minette Nelson and David Eckles ofThe Filmmaker Fund, which makes direct grants to students through the Fine Cut Fund at the J-School. Their efforts provide the next generation of high-impact documentary makers and multimedia producers with critical financial backing to defray the hard costs of documentary and multimedia production.

By Matt Beagle (‘17)

Help the next generation achieve accomplishments like these by making a tax-deductible donation to our Fine Cut Fund today.

2016 STUDENT ACADEMY AWARDS FINALISTS ANNOUNCED

Congratulations to our new Student Academy Awards finalists! See the full list below. Keep checking back to Oscars.org to find out the winners and get more information about our awards ceremony on September 22, 2016.   Animation   Pengpeng Du, “Cage,” Pratt Institute Aemilia Widodo, “Last Shot,”  Ringling College of Art and Design Alicja Jasina, “Once Upon a Line,”  USC Bob Yong and Kang Yung Ho, “The Controller,”  Ringling College of Art and Design Carter Boyce, “Die Flucht ("The Escape"), DePaul University Hannah Roman, “The Moon is Essentially Gray,”  School of Visual Arts Echo Wu, “The Wishgranter,” Ringling College of Art and Design   Alternative   David Henry Gerson, “All These Voices,” AFI   Yvonne Ng, “Cloud Kumo,”  City College of New York Kevin Rios, “Made of Sugar,”  NYU Scott Thompson, “Nova Initia,” Art Institute of Colorado Johnny Coffeen, “The Swan Girl,”  Maharishi University of Management   Documentary   Daphne Matziaraki, “4.1 Miles,” UC Berkeley Rongfei Guo, “Fairy Tales,” NYU Elise Conklin, “FROM FLINT: Voices from a Poisoned City,”  Michigan State University Ceylan Carhoglu and Nicole Jordan-Webber, “Gardeners of the Forest,”  Chapman University Caroline Cuny and Bryan Campbell, “Looking for Trouble,”  Wake Forest University Max Good, “The Assassin and Mrs. Paine,” Stanford University Melina Tupa, “The Search,”  UC Berkeley   Narrative   Shahnawaz Zali, “100 Steps,”  Northwestern University Halima Lucas, “Amelia’s Closet,” USC  Williams Naranjo, “A New Civilization,” NYU Brian Robau, “It's Just a Gun,” Chapman University Chloe Aktas, “Mutt,” NYU  Jimmy Keyrouz, “Nocturne in Black,”  Columbia University Brenna Malloy, “Rocket,”  Chapman University   Foreign Narrative   Hajni Kis, “Beautiful Figure,” University of Theatre and Film Arts, Budapest (Hungary) Judita Gamulin, “Flowers,” Academy of Dramatic Art, University of Zagreb (Croatia) Alexander Turpin, “Generation Mars,” Norwegian Film School (Norway) Alex Schaad, “Invention of Trust,” University of Television and Film Munich (Germany) Ondrej Hudecek, “Peacock,” Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (Czech Republic) Klara Kochanska,”Tenants,” The Polish National Film Television and Theatre School (Poland) Felix Ahrens, “Where the Woods End,” Filmuniversity Babelsberg KONRAD WOLF (Germany)   Foreign Animation   Ahmad Saleh, “Ayny - My Second Eye,” Academy of Media Arts Cologne (Germany) Steve Bache and Mahyar Goudarzi, “Eye for an Eye,”  Film Academy Baden-Württemberg-(Germany) Arisbek Nuhan, “I Come From Prairie,” Beijing Film Academy (China)   Foreign Documentary   Johannes Östergård, “Tarfala,” University of Television and Film Munich (Germany) Maya Sarfaty, “The Most Beautiful Woman,” The Steve Tisch School of Film and Television at Tel Aviv University (Israel) Tamar Kay, “The Mute's House,” The Jerusalem Sam Spiegel Film School (Israel)

Congratulations to our new Student Academy Awards finalists! See the full list below. Keep checking back to Oscars.org to find out the winners and get more information about our awards ceremony on September 22, 2016.

 

Animation

 

Pengpeng Du, “Cage,” Pratt Institute

Aemilia Widodo, “Last Shot,”  Ringling College of Art and Design

Alicja Jasina, “Once Upon a Line,”  USC

Bob Yong and Kang Yung Ho, “The Controller,”  Ringling College of Art and Design

Carter Boyce, “Die Flucht ("The Escape"), DePaul University

Hannah Roman, “The Moon is Essentially Gray,”  School of Visual Arts

Echo Wu, “The Wishgranter,” Ringling College of Art and Design

 

Alternative

 

David Henry Gerson, “All These Voices,” AFI  

Yvonne Ng, “Cloud Kumo,”  City College of New York

Kevin Rios, “Made of Sugar,”  NYU

Scott Thompson, “Nova Initia,” Art Institute of Colorado

Johnny Coffeen, “The Swan Girl,”  Maharishi University of Management

 

Documentary

 

Daphne Matziaraki, “4.1 Miles,” UC Berkeley

Rongfei Guo, “Fairy Tales,” NYU

Elise Conklin, “FROM FLINT: Voices from a Poisoned City,”  Michigan State University

Ceylan Carhoglu and Nicole Jordan-Webber, “Gardeners of the Forest,”  Chapman University

Caroline Cuny and Bryan Campbell, “Looking for Trouble,”  Wake Forest University

Max Good, “The Assassin and Mrs. Paine,” Stanford University

Melina Tupa, “The Search,”  UC Berkeley

 

Narrative

 

Shahnawaz Zali, “100 Steps,”  Northwestern University

Halima Lucas, “Amelia’s Closet,” USC 

Williams Naranjo, “A New Civilization,” NYU

Brian Robau, “It's Just a Gun,” Chapman University

Chloe Aktas, “Mutt,” NYU 

Jimmy Keyrouz, “Nocturne in Black,”  Columbia University

Brenna Malloy, “Rocket,”  Chapman University

 

Foreign Narrative

 

Hajni Kis, “Beautiful Figure,” University of Theatre and Film Arts, Budapest (Hungary)

Judita Gamulin, “Flowers,” Academy of Dramatic Art, University of Zagreb (Croatia)

Alexander Turpin, “Generation Mars,” Norwegian Film School (Norway)

Alex Schaad, “Invention of Trust,” University of Television and Film Munich (Germany)

Ondrej Hudecek, “Peacock,” Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (Czech Republic)

Klara Kochanska,”Tenants,” The Polish National Film Television and Theatre School (Poland)

Felix Ahrens, “Where the Woods End,” Filmuniversity Babelsberg KONRAD WOLF (Germany)

 

Foreign Animation

 

Ahmad Saleh, “Ayny - My Second Eye,” Academy of Media Arts Cologne (Germany)

Steve Bache and Mahyar Goudarzi, “Eye for an Eye,”  Film Academy Baden-Württemberg-(Germany)

Arisbek Nuhan, “I Come From Prairie,” Beijing Film Academy (China)

 

Foreign Documentary

 

Johannes Östergård, “Tarfala,” University of Television and Film Munich (Germany)

Maya Sarfaty, “The Most Beautiful Woman,” The Steve Tisch School of Film and Television at Tel Aviv University (Israel)

Tamar Kay, “The Mute's House,” The Jerusalem Sam Spiegel Film School (Israel)

2016 Excellence Awards Announced

We're proud of the recognition our students get from outside entities, from their Emmy Award nominations to their Online News Association prizes. But every year we convene our own people--J-School teachers and alums--to decide whom they want to single out for outstanding work that exemplifies what the School itself most values. These are the Excellence Awards, given by the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism to recognize student journalism that combines professional quality with public importance. Here are the 2016 winners: Randy Shilts Memorial Award for Exceptional Reporting Melissa Batchelor Warnke, UC Harassment Inquiry Shows System’s Shortcomings, Faculty Say (San Francisco Chronicle) Lucas Waldron, Oakland's Perfect Storm (East Bay Express) Robert Whittington Award for Exceptional Reporting Libby Leyden, After Her Own Tragic Loss, Lorrain Taylor Charts a Path for Mothers Who Have Lost Children to Gun Violence (Oakland North) Lacy Roberts, Luisa Conlon, and Hanna Miller, What It’s Like to Leave Iraq for a Life in America (The Atlantic) Felker Award for Excellence in Long-Form Print Journalism Mallory Pickett, One Swede Will Kill Cash Forever—Unless His Foe Saves It From Extinction (WIRED) Wayne F. Miller Award for Excellence in Photojournalism Martin Totland, The Mechanics of Extinction: Rhino Poaching in Mozambique North Gate Award for Excellence in Video Reporting and Production Gina Pollack, Undue Burden North Gate Award for Excellence in Audio Reporting and Production Laura Klivans, Imaginary Friends: Helpful or Harmful? Jessica Lum Memorial Award for Excellence in Multimedia Reporting and Production Rachel Hiles and Nina Zou, Chasing Lithium North Gate Award for Excellence in Documentary Production Deana Mitchell, Before Dawn/After Don Romin Johnson, Paparon Daphne Matziaraki, 4.1 Miles Edwin Bayley Prize for Excellence in Government or Political Reporting Melina Tupa, The Search Knight Award for Best Piece of Narrative Journalism on a Science or Environmental Subject Rachel Hiles and Nina Zou, Chasing Lithium Gobind Behari Lal Award for Excellence in Reporting on a Science or Health Related Story Laura Klivans, Imaginary Friends: Helpful or Harmful? Reva and David Logan Prize for Excellence in Investigative Reporting Nadine Sebai, Outbreak Susan Rasky Award for Journalistic Excellence Melina Tupa, The Search   Alumni and Faculty Judges Orlando Bagwell, Graduate School of Journalism Casey Capachi, CNN Julia Chan, CNN Teresa Chin, Youth Radio Emma Cott, New York Times Nancy DeVille, Freelance Journalist Edwin Dobb, Graduate School of Journalism Linnea Edmeier, Capital Public Radio Deirdre English, Graduate School of Journalism Caitlin Esch, Marketplace Kim Geiger, Chicago Tribune Wendi Jonassen, Fusion Talia Kennedy, Apple Queena Kim, KQED Bo Hee Kim, Vox Robert Lewis, WNYC Ken Light, Graduate School of Journalism Sarah McClure, Fusion Jessica Meyers, Boston Globe Lillian Mongeau, The Hechinger Report Samson Reiny, NASA Ian Sherr, CNET Brian Storm, MediaStorm Heather Tuggle, ABC 7, San Francisco Matt Wheeland, Freelance Journalist

We're proud of the recognition our students get from outside entities, from their Emmy Award nominations to their Online News Association prizes. But every year we convene our own people--J-School teachers and alums--to decide whom they want to single out for outstanding work that exemplifies what the School itself most values. These are the Excellence Awards, given by the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism to recognize student journalism that combines professional quality with public importance.

Here are the 2016 winners:


Randy Shilts Memorial Award for Exceptional Reporting

Melissa Batchelor Warnke, UC Harassment Inquiry Shows System’s Shortcomings, Faculty Say (San Francisco Chronicle)

Lucas Waldron, Oakland's Perfect Storm (East Bay Express)

Robert Whittington Award for Exceptional Reporting

Libby Leyden, After Her Own Tragic Loss, Lorrain Taylor Charts a Path for Mothers Who Have Lost Children to Gun Violence (Oakland North)

Lacy Roberts, Luisa Conlon, and Hanna Miller, What It’s Like to Leave Iraq for a Life in America (The Atlantic)

Felker Award for Excellence in Long-Form Print Journalism

Mallory Pickett, One Swede Will Kill Cash Forever—Unless His Foe Saves It From Extinction (WIRED)

Wayne F. Miller Award for Excellence in Photojournalism

Martin Totland, The Mechanics of Extinction: Rhino Poaching in Mozambique

North Gate Award for Excellence in Video Reporting and Production

Gina Pollack, Undue Burden

North Gate Award for Excellence in Audio Reporting and Production

Laura Klivans, Imaginary Friends: Helpful or Harmful?

Jessica Lum Memorial Award for Excellence in Multimedia Reporting and Production

Rachel Hiles and Nina Zou, Chasing Lithium

North Gate Award for Excellence in Documentary Production

Deana Mitchell, Before Dawn/After Don

Romin Johnson, Paparon

Daphne Matziaraki, 4.1 Miles

Edwin Bayley Prize for Excellence in Government or Political Reporting

Melina Tupa, The Search

Knight Award for Best Piece of Narrative Journalism on a Science or Environmental Subject

Rachel Hiles and Nina Zou, Chasing Lithium

Gobind Behari Lal Award for Excellence in Reporting on a Science or Health Related Story

Laura Klivans, Imaginary Friends: Helpful or Harmful?

Reva and David Logan Prize for Excellence in Investigative Reporting

Nadine Sebai, Outbreak

Susan Rasky Award for Journalistic Excellence

Melina Tupa, The Search

 

Alumni and Faculty Judges

Orlando Bagwell, Graduate School of Journalism
Casey Capachi, CNN
Julia Chan, CNN
Teresa Chin, Youth Radio
Emma Cott, New York Times
Nancy DeVille, Freelance Journalist
Edwin Dobb, Graduate School of Journalism
Linnea Edmeier, Capital Public Radio
Deirdre English, Graduate School of Journalism
Caitlin Esch, Marketplace
Kim Geiger, Chicago Tribune
Wendi Jonassen, Fusion
Talia Kennedy, Apple
Queena Kim, KQED
Bo Hee Kim, Vox
Robert Lewis, WNYC
Ken Light, Graduate School of Journalism
Sarah McClure, Fusion
Jessica Meyers, Boston Globe
Lillian Mongeau, The Hechinger Report
Samson Reiny, NASA
Ian Sherr, CNET
Brian Storm, MediaStorm
Heather Tuggle, ABC 7, San Francisco
Matt Wheeland, Freelance Journalist