“Dunya’s Day” Courtesy of Sundance
The 2019 Sundance Film Festival ended on a high note for Graduate Film, having critically acclaimed entries in numerous categories and taking home some of the festival’s top prizes.
Student Raed Alsemari and his crew, which included student Olivier Theurillat, earned the prestigious Short Film Jury Award for International Fiction for Dunya’s Day. The film, which had already received glowing reviews, was the first Saudi film to premiere at Sundance.
Late Night, directed by alum Nisha Ganatra and with director of photography alum Matthew Clark, hit major headlines when Amazon Studios bid a record-breaking $13 million for the comedy. The feature, which has been commended by publications like Vulture and Slate, is the only bid to have ever reached eight figures for a U.S.-only deal at Sundance.
“Late Night” Courtesy of Vulture
Alum Kimberly Parker executive produced The Last Black Man in San Francisco, which won both the U.S. Dramatic Directing Award and the U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Creative Collaboration. Along with receiving two prizes from the competitive category, critics from Rolling Stone and Vulture have praised the fest highlight.
The Last Black Man in San Francisco was not the only film in the U.S. Dramatic Competition category with Grad Film alumni attached. Alum Julius Onah wrote, directed and produced Luce, which sold to Neon and Topic Studios directly from the festival. AV Film ranked the drama as the second best film of Sundance 2019. Before You Know It, produced by alum Josh Hetzler, also in Competition, was applauded for its charm by IndieWire.
“The Last Black Man in San Francisco” Courtesy of Sundance
Grad Film shined in Sundance’s NEXT category as well. Alum Jomo Fray served as the director of photography for Selah and the Spades, which earned great acclaim from Variety. IndieWire praised the coming-of-age story told in Premature, a film by alum Rashaad Ernesto Green and with director of photography alum Laura Valladao. Alum Kirill Mikhanovsky also successfully screened his comedy Give Me Liberty.
Additionally, the U.S. Narrative Short Films competition highlighted numerous Grad Film students and alumni. Alum A.V. Rockwell directed Feathers, with production support from alumni Marttise Hill and Julius Pryor, IV. Alum Nikyatu Jusu wrote and directed Suicide by Sunlight. Fran This Summer was a major Grad Film production: writer, director and producer Mary Evangelista and director of photography Ines Gowland graduated from our program; and producers Elegance Bratton and Alexandria Wallace, as well as editor Alan Wu, are currently finishing their thesis projects. During the festival, Darius Clark Monroe also screened his documentary short film Black 14.
Alum Desiree Akhavan, whose film The Miseducation of Cameron Post won the U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize last year at Sundance, served as a juror this time around.