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Star Spangled Eyes Takes Top Honor at Redstone

COM alum, army officer wins festival with film on deployment

"Star Spangled Eyes," the winner of this year's Redstone Film Festival, focuses on a young couple's last day together before they are separated by deployment.

Star Spangled Eyes, a short film about a young man and his girlfriend who spend a final day together before deployment separates them, captured first place at the 27th annual Redstone Film Festival on Tuesday night. But filmmaker Henry Hughes (COM’06) could not attend the award ceremony because, like the hero of his film, he was called away to serve as an officer in the United States Army.

“I wish I could be here to thank everyone in person,” Hughes said in a prerecorded videotape. "Everyone told me to go big and write about what I know. This is what I know.”

Second place went to Chris Messina (COM’06) for his psychological thriller Little White Flowers. Loosely adapted from the works of 19th-century writers Washington Irving and Edgar Allan Poe, the film portrays the descent of a tormented man trying to flee his problems. Little White Flowers is the second of Messina’s films to appear at the Redstone Festival; the first, Melo, won the 2004 Eastman Scholarship competition, which is sponsored by the Kodak Student Filmmaker Program and carries a $1,250 award.

Third place went to Ashley Kennedy (CFA’06) for her documentary Uncommon Art. For nine months, Kennedy followed homeless artist Dale Marcia, who eventually managed to move off the streets by selling his crafts through Common Art, a program that gives Boston-area homeless people a chance to develop their artistic talents.

"I not only filmed these people," said Kennedy, "I became part of their community. I hope you get the message that art really can change your life."

Sponsored by Sumner Redstone (Hon.’94), CEO of Viacom, the Redstone Film Festival showcases work by undergraduate and graduate students in the College of Communication’s department of film and television. Despite a postponement of more than two months because of a Valentine’s Day snowstorm, the event drew more than 400 people.

“The Redstone Festival is the signature event of our department,” said Charles Merzbacher, chair of the department of film and television. “I hope this is only the starting point for all of the films we see here tonight.”       

All nominations were produced for a film or television class. The entries were prescreened by a selection committee, and finalists were determined by a panel of media professionals. This year’s judges were Laura Bernieri, producer of Saint Aire Productions; Kurt E. Fendt, research director of Comparative Media Studies, MIT; and John Stimpson, writer and director of The Legend of Lucy Keyes.

The Redstone Festival has served as a launch pad for several cinematic careers. Previous winners and finalists have gone on to become successful directors, producers, and screenwriters. Last year’s winner, Josh Safdie (COM’07), had a film featured in Slamdance, the indie alternative to the Sundance Film Festival. A film by finalist Todd Davis (COM’05), In the Tradition of My Family, won a third-place award at Redstone, took first prize at Redstone West, the Los Angeles version of the competition, and has been featured at festivals in Tel Aviv, Munich, and New York. And one of this year’s award-winners, Messina, won the Best Independent Experimental Film award at the New England Film and Video Festival for Nightlights, which explores night on the Charles River.

This year’s other finalists included ABAJEE, by Maureen Bharoocha (COM’07); Bingo Nation, by Stephanie Stender (COM’07); Hair: A Conversation, by Shola Ajayi (COM’07); and Woman on the Moon, by Aviv Rubinstien (COM’08).

The winners of the Joseph A. Lalli and Lauren Shuler Donner production grants and the winners of the Fleder-Rosenberg Short Screenplay Contest were also announced at the festival. William Lautzenheiser (COM) and Tay McEvers (COM’07) received the Lalli and Donner grants, respectively, which offer student filmmakers $5,000 to produce screenplays selected as finalists in the previous year’s Fleder-Rosenberg contest. Valerie Temple (COM’07), Andrew Schwarz (COM’07), Ryan Conrath (COM’08), and Jessie Beers-Altman (COM’08) received honorable mentions in the Fleder-Rosenberg contest; Charlie Anderson (COM’08), Jeff Boedeker (COM), Matt Lawrence (COM’08), Wheeler Maidrand (COM), and Tara Mukund (COM) shared second place; and Marcy Holland (COM’08) and Greg Ernstrom (COM’07) split the first-place award of $2,000.

Vicky Waltz can be reached at vwaltz@bu.edu. Jessica Ullian can be reached at jullian@bu.edu.