Two German films amongst student Academy Award winners for 2017

The 44th Student Academy Awards have once again proved a bonanza for European film schools with Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland taking the honours in the Narrative section for International Film Schools. Germany also walked away with best Documentary for an International Film School. 

This year, the Student Academy Awards competition received a total of 1,587 entries from 267 domestic and 89 international colleges and universities – which were voted by a record number of Academy members.

New this year, the competition was expanded to allow two options for students at international film schools to submit their films. In addition to CILECT-member schools submitting one student film per international film school category, international students may now enter films that qualify through film festivals recognized by the Student Academy Awards Executive Committee.

Marit Weerheijm’s When Grey Is A Colour (pictured above) – originating from the Netherlands Film Academy – has found itself already popular on the festival circuit screening at the likes of Cameraimage and Toronto. The film follows a young girl who doesn’t know how to reach out to her older brother when he returns home after a failed suicide attempt. With a magical realist bent, the film has also proved popular at festivals geared towards young audiences.

Also winning in the Narrative category was Jan-Eric Mack’s Facing Mecca from the Zurich Film School. The film sees a pensioner help a Syrian refugee who has to bury his Muslim wife. While wading in the constricting sea of red tape, the two form a bond and soon find a simple answer to their situation. The film recently begun it’s festival life with a bang, receiving the Best of Fest awards at this year’s Palm Springs Film Festival where it received its world premiere. It looks sure to be a popular fixture on the circuit in the months to come.

The final winner in the Narrative section is a product of the Hamburg Media School. Katja Benrath’s film All of Us is set in Kenya which has been targeted for decades by the terrorist attacks of the Islamist Al-Shabaab. An atmosphere of anxiety and mistrust has been growing between Christians and Muslims. Until in December 2015 when the passengers of a bus succeeded in achieving an unprecedented example of humanity.

Another German film school – namely Filmakademie Baden-Wurttemberg – garnered best Documentary for the film Galamsey. Director Johannes Preuss saw how the gold rush had gripped a small town in Ghana when he was there as young aid worker. A few years later, he went back there for his documentary to see what the supposed windfall had really brought the people.

Students will arrive in Los Angeles for a week of industry activities that will culminate in the awards ceremony on Thursday, October 12 at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills. The medal placements – gold, silver and bronze – in the seven award categories will be announced at the ceremony. All Student Academy Award-winning films are eligible to compete for 2017 Oscars in the Animated Short Film or Live Action Short Film category and 2018 Oscars in the Documentary Short Subject category.

14 September 2017, by Laurence Boyce