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Yuwen Jiang was halfway across the world as her film Ears of Cherry was selected as the top winner of this year’s Redstone Film Festival, the annual competition showcasing the most promising work by students and recent grads of the College of Communication filmmaking and screenwriting programs. Jiang’s film, the story of a young girl haunted by a strange voice and who must ultimately deal with her past, also took home awards for best screenplay and best editing, and is an official selection of the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, being held in May.
Jiang (COM’13), who produced the film for her COM graduate thesis, lives in Beijing, where she works as a film company production executive. She was unable to accept the award in person.
“The film is very self-assured, poetic, and has great images,” said festival coordinator Jan Egleson, a COM associate professor of the practice of film and television. “Helen [Yuwen Jiang] has a really good eye and was able to convey a complicated, difficult story.”
Second prize went to Kate Brown (COM’13), director of Our Way Out, a film about two high school students from rival cliques forced to face their differences when paired for a class assignment. Maura Smith (COM’13), director of Dear Santa, the story of a little girl who asks to become a boy for Christmas, was awarded third prize. Coincidentally, both Smith and Brown are former COM teaching assistants for the Redstone Film Festival. All three winners will receive Canon DSLR camera equipment.
The Redstone Film Festival, now in its 34th year, has launched the careers of Hollywood directors, producers, and screenwriters. The event is sponsored by media mogul and Viacom chair Sumner Redstone (Hon.’94) and was held at a packed Tsai Performance Center.
Other finalists this year were Paul Villanova (COM’13), director of Octopus, a film about a down-on-his-luck man forced to wrestle an octopus, and Jim Dandee (COM’14), director of The Observer, which chronicles a woman’s efforts to maintain a normal relationship with her partner after he becomes ill.
The 5 finalists were chosen from nearly 50 submissions, all originally produced for a COM film, television, or video production class or as a graduate thesis project. The finalists and the winners were selected in a two-step process. A committee of production, screenwriting, and film-studies graduates first whittled down the submissions to a list of finalists, and another panel, comprising film industry professionals, named the winners.
This year’s winners were chosen by Ty Burr, a Boston Globe film critic and a COM film and television lecturer; Megan Lovallo (COM’12), whose film Off to the Races won first place at last year’s Redstone Festival; Lewis Wheeler, a Boston-based actor, director, and producer; Emmy-winning cinematographer Paul Goldsmith; and Boston-based filmmaker Robert Patton-Spruill (CGS’92, COM’94), an Emerson College professor. The program had many “strong graduate student films” this year, evidenced by the fact that all five finalists were graduate students, said Paul Schneider, chair of COM’s department of film and television.
Other prize winners at last night’s festival were Dandee, who won the best cinematography prize, and Villanova, who was honored with the sound design award.
The winners of this year’s Fleder-Rosenberg short screenplay contest, sponsored by screenwriters Gary Fleder (COM’85) and Scott Rosenberg (COM’85), were also announced at the festival. A check for $1,250 went to first place winner Luke Shields (COM’14) (who gave a shout-out to his mother and his dog, Butters, as he accepted the award); $750 to second place winner Alex Koch (COM’14); and $500 to third place winner Jessica Clark (COM’14).
Julia Iglesias (COM’14) was the recipient of this year’s Adrienne Shelly Production Grant. The $5,000 grant, awarded to a female filmmaker, was given by the Adrienne Shelly Foundation in honor of producer, writer, and actress Shelly (COM’87), best known for her film The Waitress, which was completed shortly before she was murdered in her New York City apartment in 2006.
The young star of Dear Santa, Sam Eddy, was thrilled when the film won. “It was awesome, especially to see everyone’s reactions as they watched the film,” she said.
The Boston Redstone Film Festival is followed in March by Redstone festivals in New York (designed primarily as a showcase for alumni) and Los Angeles (open to both students and alumni). The Redstone Alumni Short Film Competition, with a prize of $500, is part of the Los Angeles festival.