[CalArts Public Affairs] – The 2012 Sundance Film Festival will include eight films by seven alumni of California Institute of the Arts’ (CalArts) School of Film Video. This extraordinary recognition reflects CalArts singular devotion to filmmaking as a personal, independent art form.
The seven short films and one feature will premiere in Park City, Utah, next month. Out of the 32 films in the Sundance “Shorts Program,” seven were made by CalArts alumni. Three of the films originated as MFA thesis films. The breadth of the films presented is as significant as their number—with festival selections spanning all four programs of the School of Film/Video: Character Animation, Experimental Animation, Film and Video and Film Directing.
In addition, CalArts School of Theater alumnus Lars Jan will present the multimedia piece ABACUS, which includes video as well as live performance, in the festival’s New Frontiers series.
CalArts filmmakers at Sundance include:
– Andrew Ahn, “First Birthday” (MFA thesis film)
– Rhys Ernst, “The Thing” (MFA thesis film)
– Aurora Guerrero, “Mosquita y Mari.” This is the first feature by a Chicana filmmaker who was previously a Sundance Institute and Ford Foundation Fellow.
– Kang Min Kim, “38-39 Degrees Celsius” (MFA thesis film)
– Christopher Peters, “The Diatom”
– Kataneh Vahdani, “Avocados”
– Travis Wilkerson, “Pluto Declaration” and “Fragments of Dissolution”
“This extraordinary showing at Sundance reflects the talent and truly inventive spirit of CalArts trained filmmakers and the faculty who mentored them,” said Steve Anker, dean of the School of Film/Video at CalArts. “The level of achievement in our school has always been high, but in recent years, we’ve seen more awards, and recognition at festivals and in museums—all for work by filmmakers who share a fierce independence and an uncompromising commitment to a personal voice. The attention and acclaim received by alumni and faculty draws impressive students to the school and creates a strong community of serious and committed filmmakers in all stages of their careers.”
CalArts was named number six among the county’s top 25 film schools for 2011 by the Hollywood Reporter. This year, marked the latest stride in a remarkable run by the live-action contingent of the School of Film/Video, internationally famous for its animation pedigree, and for the renowned alumni behind pop-cultural forces from Pixar to SpongeBob SquarePants.
In 2011, alumna Natasha Mendonca took home the top prize at the Ann Arbor Film Festival. Her powerful film essay, Jan Villa, about the aftermath of the 2005 monsoon floods in Mumbai, had earlier won in Rotterdam. Alumnus Mike Ott, director of the intimately observed, idiosyncratic California small-town drama LITTLEROCK, collected the “Someone to Watch” Spirit Award at the “alternative” Oscars precursor.
CalArts graduate Tariq Tapa, whose taut Kashmir-set Zero Bridge had a weeklong run at New York’s Film Forum and received accolades at festivals worldwide, and Jason Byrne, with the maritime documentary Scrap Vessel, have made Filmmaker magazine’s list of the “25 New Faces of Independent Cinema.”
Details about the 2012 Sundance entries from Paul Fraser on the 24700 blog:
– “First Birthday” is Andrew Ahn‘s (Film/Video MFA 10) CalArts thesis film in which a a gay Korean American man yearns for a family life just out of reach.
– “The Thing” is Rhys Ernst‘s (Film/Video MFA 11) thesis film. A synopsis: Zooey has spent weeks planning a road trip to a mysterious roadside attraction known as The Thing in the hopes that she and Tristan will reconnect. Both Tristan, an FTM transman, and his fluffy cat Steven struggle to find places to comfortably pee, while Zooey learns the open road isn’t everything she hoped it would be.
– “Mosquita y Mari” is a feature film by Aurora Guerrero, in which she explores the complexities of a budding friendship between two Chicana high schoolers in Los Angeles’s Huntington Park. Yolanda is stellar in her studies and makes her parents proud, while Mari has just moved to town with her undocumented family. On her first day of school, Mari is assigned to be Yolanda’s study partner. After a rocky start, the two find a bond that confuses them at times.
– “38-39 Degrees Celsius” is Kang Min Kim’s (Film/Video MFA 11) thesis film. It centers on a a man with a big birthmark on his back as he enters an old public bathhouse. He falls into a dream where he confronts his father who has the same birthmark.
– “The Diatom” by Christopher Peters (Interschool BFA and MFA 2000) explores the diatom as the basis of the aquatic food chain. It produces most of the oxygen on earth and is a key scientific indicator of the health of a water system. In order to understand our place in the world, this mixed-mode ‘science film’ observes renowned Utah-based scientist Sam Rushforth and his team in the wide, isolated landscape, then in the lab and finally goes through the microscope to the diatom itself.
– “Avocados” by Kataneh Vahdani (Film/Video BFA 05, MFA 08) is a journey with many characters in one day through a city.
Travis Wilkerson (Film/Video MFA 01) has two short films at Sundance:
– “Fragments of Dissolution” is a poetic, anguished cry from the heart of a rotting empire. “Four women describe their own unique hells. Children, brothers, and friends burned alive while simply trying not to freeze. Husbands and sons deployed over and over, who kill themselves rather than fighting again. From Ft. Lewis to Detroit, the empire is devouring its own intestines.”
– “Pluto Declaration” – From the program notes: “Restore the classical definition of planet! Bring back planet Pluto! The solar system is 12!”