Six films receive awards at Valley College’s Media Arts student showcase

Updated: Jun 2

Student films received recognition in five technical categories and two popular votes in Saturday’s virtual event.

By Isaac Dektor, Managing Editor

Eduard Asaturov's "Breaking the Habit" was selected as the audience's favorite at Valley's student showcase. The film also took home the award for best screenwriting. (Photo courtesy of the Media Arts Department)

Snapshots of 2021 dominated this year’s collection of student films, highlighting COVID-19, loss, love and possessed cats.

Valley College’s Media Arts student showcase on Saturday featured awards for cinematography, editing, sound design, visual effects, screenwriting and audience choice. Students worked within the constraints of one minute runtimes to create original content that was presented to faculty and students. Winning filmmakers received $25 Amazon gift cards. Eduard Asaturov’s film, “Breaking the Habit,” took home two awards: best screenwriting and audience choice.

The film tells the story of a young girl, a broken home and a ballerina music box. In a fit of rage, her mother breaks the box and seemingly shatters the girl’s dreams — but repents by taking her to ballet class, ending the film on an uplifting note.

“Coloring Emotions,” a film by Katie Bonilla, won an audience choice award as well. With a poignant narration about creative expression and a score consisting of only drums, Bonilla’s film features a dancer, a drummer, a painter and a boxer exercising their crafts.

“Everyone has their own way of expressing themselves,” says the narrator. “Expressing what they are passionate about and showing their creativity can come in many ways.”

The award for best cinematography went to “Distancing” by Alikanuiokalani Achong. Achong uses a contrast of color and black and white to illustrate the tonal shift that occurred when COVID-19 lockdowns began. The 29-year-old utilized split screen presentation to tell more story within the short time constraint.

Chase Shurtz’s comedy “Love At First'' won best editing for its sharp cuts, flawless continuity and upbeat tempo. Based on a true story, Shurtz’s minute-long meet-cute gone wrong shows viewers what can happen when a stomach ache crashes a first date.

Chase Shurtz is a camera assistant who won best editing in Valley's Media Arts student showcase for his short film "Love At First." (Photo by Jeremy Ruiz / The Valley Star)

Robert Williams' experimental and semi-autobiographical film, “The Painter,” took home best sound design. The veteran drummer and musician mixed various sound elements brilliantly, creating anxiety through a multi-voiced narration and breaking the tension as the credits rolled with a head bobbing rock song featuring the ringtone that haunted the narrator throughout the film.

Best visual editing went to “Normal,” Roy Kirk’s ambitious dystopian drama. “Normal” exaggerates the effects of the pandemic — helicopters crash and gas mains explode as the main character walks from scene to scene, with a narration voiced over.

“These last few years, the world has really changed,” says the narrator. “It’s not safe to breathe the air outside without a mask. Nothing is what it used to be.”

Two films that were authentic in their own right, “Missing You Today” by Elisa Agello and “Stevie” by Randall de Ruiter, did not receive recognition in Saturday’s showcase.

“Missing You Today” tells the story of a family that has lost a loved one. The authentic slice of life scored simply by piano seemingly falls into the category of documentary.

A story about a man who has to watch a friend’s cat for one weekend, “Stevie” flips horror on its head. Classic horror folly sounds, tastefully dark cinematography and a razor sharp screenplay leaves viewers simultaneously amused and terrified.

Although not all films were recognized on Saturday, the showcase strived to celebrate all of Valley’s student filmmakers.

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