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June 26, 2013

Recent Graduate Wins Student Academy Award

David Aristizabal wins for documentary about canine therapy for PTSD

By Valerie Turpin

For many Production students, making it to the Oscars is a lifelong ambition. One team of SCA students got a head start by qualifying for the Student Academy Awards, which recognizes outstanding, student-created work before they have finished school. At this year’s 40th Student Academy Awards, MFA Production alum David Aristizabal, who graduated in 2012, was awarded first place for his documentary A Second Chance, which explores and pays tribute to service dogs that help support war veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Aristizabal, MFA Production '12

“Every wounded veteran is a reminder of those who have given up their normal lives for our comfort,” explained Aristizabal ‘12, who was born and raised in Colombia and experienced the strife of war first-hand as the country faced devastating internal conflicts for nearly fifty years. “Every time I see a veteran, I feel ashamed of society’s indifference. I detest war, but being against it does not justify ignoring the veterans when they return home. This project is a tribute to the dogs that help wounded veterans get their lives back.”

A Second Chance follows Combat Medic Blade Anthony, who was honorably discharged and diagnosed with PTSD, thus making his move to civilian life difficult. After applying for a support dog, Blade begins to acknowledge the emotional scars of war and looks to a rescued companion for a second chance at life. The film was created in CTPR 547, a graduate-level production course that focuses on documentary filmmaking.

“This film combines my adoration for dogs with my profound respect for war veterans,” noted Aristizabal, whose own dog, Remedios, had been a constant source of companionship for him and his family. “There is no better cure for a bad day than her franticly waiving tail or her clumsy paws crushing my chest at my doorstep.”

Drew Diamond, MFA Production ’13 and Producer of A Second Chance, sees the win as a testament to the strength of a dedicated team in engaging tough issues. “The award reaffirmed that filmmaking is not just a hobby of mine, but a passion which I want to dedicate my life to pursuing,” said Diamond. “I see the award as a challenge to make sincere films which will touch audiences and entertain while making them seriously think about issues. The award demonstrates what great collaborations [produce]. We had an amazing experience working together as a team of eight and were successful because of the dedication each member of the team had to making this story. Our crew's genuine effort and care for the subject is what made the film a success.”

“[This project] is a fine example of the power of social advocacy documentary filmmaking which inspires not only the audience, but especially the filmmakers themselves,” said SCA Professor and Documentarian Amanda Pope.  “We pride ourselves in the documentary program on our encouragement of international students and their story ideas.  I think this recognition by the Academy inevitably brings more respect and attention within the School to documentary and nonfiction as a genre.”

Aristizabal (center) with crew members while filming A Second Chance

Aristizabal attributes much of the film’s success to his crew, which included Producer Diamond, Co-Producer Josh Hsieh, Cinematographer Gil Choi, Editors Jeff Chanley and Mark Manalo and Sound Editors Eddie Ng and Mike Hsu.

To view the trailer for A Second Chance, please visit: http://vimeo.com/58339400

For more on A Second Chance, please visit: davidaristizabal.com

For more on the Student Academy Awards, please visit: http://www.oscars.org/awards/saa/index.html