Four films made by University of Arizona graduates will gain national and international audiences next month.
The short film "Amásání (The Grandma)" by Stacy Howard, who earned her bachelor's degree from the UA School of Theatre, Film and Television in May, has been selected to screen at Toronto's ImagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival, the world's largest indigenous film festival, which takes place Oct. 18-22 in Toronto.
Three other Bachelor of Fine Arts graduates have had their films selected for "Film School Shorts," a national public television series that showcases short films from emerging filmmakers for national broadcast. The films, which will air in Tucson on Oct. 8 and 22, are "Bookends," by 2016 graduate Dominic Villarrubia; "Bloodlines," by 2014 graduate Christopher Nataanii; and "La Graduación," by 2014 graduate Rafael Gomez.
This is the first time UA student films have been selected for the "Film School Shorts" series, which has been produced since 2013 by KQED in San Francisco.
These young filmmakers are bringing works they created as UA students to national and international audiences, thanks to support from the University's Hanson Film Institute. Housed in the School of Theatre, Film & Television in the College of Fine Arts, the institute provides professional development opportunities for UA students, faculty and filmmakers — helping them connect with contacts in the film festival and television programming worlds, helping them create tailored film festival entry strategies and, in some instances, providing funding support.
"The Hanson Film Institute is delighted to support such talented new voices in filmmaking," said institute director Vicky Westover. "Helping these young filmmakers navigate the overwhelming world of film festivals and exhibition enables them to take their next steps toward a career in the industry."
Lisanne Skyler, associate professor and film director in the School of Theatre, Film & Television, said it's exciting to see the continued success of UA film students post-graduation.
"Students go through a rigorous and very challenging story development process in the UA film and television program, but it's always driven by the uniqueness of the filmmaker's voice," Skyler said. "It's exciting to see these very personal films and very brave filmmakers receive such a high level of national and international recognition."
Showcase for Indigenous Films
ImagineNATIVE will present 115 feature films, documentaries, shorts and music videos created by indigenous filmmakers from 16 countries.
Along with "Amásání," which was written, directed, edited and produced by Howard, 72 percent of the films in this year's festival were made by indigenous female directors.
Filmed at Mexican Water on the Navajo Nation in Navajo and English, "Amásání," which debuted at the Fox Tucson Theatre in April as part of the School of Theatre, Film & Television's annual "I Dream in Widescreen" event, explores the relationship between a rebellious young girl and her traditional Navajo grandmother, and pays tribute to the importance of Navajo culture and language.
"Growing up on the Navajo reservation and living the Navajo way is what inspired my film," Howard said. "Like many Navajo kids, I experienced getting dropped off at Grandma's and spending the day with her. With my film, 'Amásání,' I wanted to focus on Native themes."
Howard said she is grateful to her instructors in the School of Theatre, Film & Television, who helped her hone the technical skills necessary to make her film, and to the Hanson Film Institute, which helped her with a film festival entry strategy and provided funding support to attend ImagineNATIVE.
"I feel very supported by my UA family," she said.
Jason Ryle, ImagineNATIVE's artistic director, called Howard's film "a tender, emotional story that is instantly relatable and one that will resonate with our audiences."
"It's always exciting when we receive works by emerging filmmakers," Ryle said. "Their voice, perspective and talent enriches the festival, and Stacy's film is no exception."
'Film School Shorts' to Air in Tucson
"Film School Shorts" is a half-hour series that showcases a curated selection of the best short student films from across the country. The series is broadcast nationally on public television, and online via dedicated YouTube and Vimeo channels.
The three UA student film shorts are part of the series' fifth season, with air dates scheduled in major markets, including San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Washington, D.C., Maryland, Oregon, San Diego and Philadelphia, among others.
In Tucson, Arizona Public Media will air "La Graduación" and "Bloodlines" late Sunday night, Oct. 8, and "Bookends" late Sunday night, Oct. 22.
Nataanii's film, "Bloodlines," is about two adolescent Native American brothers who set out to kill a wolf to earn their stern father's respect. It screened at ImagineNATIVE in 2014 and at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2015. Gomez's "La Graduación" depicts a south-of-the-border stop that goes horribly wrong. Villarrubia's "Bookends" is about a young, fragile woman who puts her family on edge. All three filmmakers now live and work in Los Angeles.
Villarrubia said he is excited to have his film seen by a larger audience, and he has "never-ending gratitude" to the Hanson Film Institute and the School of Theatre, Film & Television for their support.
He said his film was inspired by the "little pivotal moments that happen in our lives."
"I call them little because they seem to happen so fast, or it's difficult to pinpoint how events lead to them, but in hindsight these things that happen to us are quite large in scale and how they sculpt us as people, no matter what stage of life you're in," he said.
"Film School Shorts" producer Julia Shackelford and her team receive and screen about 1,000 submissions each year and select about 25 shorts for each season.
"The three films Hanson Film Institute submitted for consideration instantly impressed our entire team," Shackelford said. "The filmmakers demonstrated not only a mastery of filmmaking, but also told timeless stories from underrepresented voices in our society. I cannot wait to see what comes next from these filmmakers and the new class of film students at the University of Arizona."