26th Annual DGA Student Film Awards

26th Annual DGA Student Film Awards

February 9, 2021

On February 9, DGA members, winning students and their guests viewed the virtual ceremony for the 26th Annual DGA Student Film Awards. The awards are designed to honor, encourage and bring attention to outstanding women and ethnically diverse film students at select universities across the country.

The evening began with a welcome from DGA Student Film Awards Committee Chair Gil Cates, Jr., who spoke about the history of these awards that were founded by the late DGA Past President Gene Reynolds a quarter century ago, and how the program has expanded since then. 

“To date, the program has grown to encompass over 200 schools nationwide, including historically black colleges and universities,” said Cates. “It is a hallmark of our efforts to recognize the talents of emerging women and people of color, supporting their entrance into the film industry and eventually into the DGA. This is just one part of the Guild’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.”

After taking a moment to honor the legacy of Student Film Awards Committee Member Reginald D. Brown, who served on this committee for more than 20 years and recently passed away, Cates turned the proceedings over to Director Carl Weathers, who was serving as the emcee of the ceremony.

“These awards have recognized dozens of now-successful Directors over its 26-year existence, including two of our presenters this evening, Jon M. Chu and Nicole Kassell, along with Directors like Steven Caple Jr., Ryan Coogler and Patricia Riggen,” said Weathers. “I’d like to take a minute and congratulate this year’s recipients, and their supportive family and friends who are with us tonight. We all know just how difficult it is to bring our visions to life and the encouragement needed to keep on going. Not to mention, the incredible obstacles these Directors overcame in the midst of a global pandemic.”

After a screening of clips from the jury award-winning short films, Weathers congratulated the East Region recipients: Tramaine “Trey” Gray of North Carolina School of the Arts in the African American category for Kindred Kings, Constance Tsang of Columbia University in the Asian American category for Beau, Mariana Saffon of Columbia University in the Latino category for Entre tú y Milagros and Alice Aguiar of Savannah College of Art and Design in the Women’s category for Windchimes. He then acknowledged the West Region recipients: Dagmawi Abebe of USC in the African American category for The Ball Method, Shuang Li of University of California, Berkeley in the Asian American category for The Long Wait, Tiffany Kontoyiannis-Guillen of USC in the Latino category for Welcome Back and Star Victoria of USC in the Women’s category for La Ruta.

The Student Film Award-winners of each category were selected by blue ribbon DGA member panels and the awards were given out via pre-recorded video presentations. Director Regina King (One Night in Miami) presented this year’s winners in the African American category: East Region winner, Natalie Jasmine Harris of NYU for Pure and West Region winner, Allison A. Waite of USC for The Dope Years: The Story of Latasha Harlins. Director Jon M. Chu (Crazy Rich Asians) presented this year’s winners in the Asian American category: East Region winner, Karishma Dev Dube of NYU for Bittu and West Region winner, Olivia Hang Zhou of American Film Institute for Apart, Together. Director Linda Mendoza (Grown-ish) presented this year’s winners in the Latino category: East Region winner, Esteban Garcia Vernaza of Columbia University for Silento and West Region winner, Felipe Vargas of USC for Milk Teeth. Director Nicole Kassell (Watchmen) presented this year’s winners in the Women’s category: East Region winner, Shae Xu of Columbia University for Duet and West Region winner, Kathryn Boyd-Batstone of USC for For Rosa.

Clips from each winning film were viewed and the winners all had the opportunity to deliver their acceptance speeches online.

About the Student Film Awards

Eligible films were made in the 2019/2020 school year (September 2019 through August 2020), and produced as a student project under the supervision of a faculty member – with students holding every major crew position. Dramas, comedies and documentaries are all eligible – animated and experimental films are not eligible. Applicants must be enrolled in, or be a recent (one-year) graduate from, an accredited post-secondary institution located in the United States and selected by the DGA.

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