September 19, 2020

SCA alumni lead Student Academy Awards Wins

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced on Tuesday the winners of the 47th annual Student Academy Awards. With 1,474 entries from over 300 domestic and international college and universities, only 18 student films were selected for recognition. Of the selected films, USC School of Cinematic arts lead with 4 student winners including Curry Sicong Tan for “Simulacra”, Allison A. Waite for “The Dope Years: The Story of Latasha Harlins”, Yucong Chen for “Unfinished Lives”, and Rommel Villa Barriga for “Sweet Potatores.  USC students were represented in 3 of the 7 award categories; Alternative/ Experimental (Domestic and International Film Schools), Documentary (Domestic Film Schools), and Narrative (Domestic Film Schools).

Curry Sicong Tan, USC alumni with an MFA in animation and art, was recognized for her experimental film “Simulacra”, and experimental and mixed art form project inspired by studies of multiple personality disorder and the work of French sociologiest Jean Baudrillard. Tan described the project with the tagline “there are many kinds of truth, and many notions of selfhood. Human beings are dynamic.” The film, following the experience of an aging Buddhist, incorporates live action footage, motion capture, and 3D art.

In the documentary category, Allison A. Waite and Yucong Chen were nominated for their respective films “The Dope Years: The Story of Latasha Harlins” and “Unfinished Lives”. “The Dope Years: The Story of Latasha Harlins” follows the life and death of Latasha Harlins, a 15-year-old African-American girl whose murder contributed to the 1992 Los Angeles Riots. Allison A. Waite, who received her MFA in film and television production this year, crafted an insightful and poignant documentary seeking to fill a part of American History that has been unjustly forgotten in the discourse of racial injustice.

Yucong Chen’s “Unfinished Lives” explores the murder of USC graduate student Xinran Ji, who was beaten to death by four teenagers in 2014. Chen received her MFA in production earlier this year and crafted this troubling and heartbreaking documentary as her thesis film project.

Awarded in the narrative category, Rommel Villa Barriga’s “Sweet Potatoes” tells the live story of Luis Miramontes, the Mexican scientist who synthesized the main component to the contraceptive pill, facing backlash from religious organizations for his groundbreaking achievement.  Another MFA in production alumni, Barriga’s film and previous work offers a unique cinematic voice able to tell original and exceptional narratives.

All these awarded students represent the best of a new generation of filmmakers and their works joins the long legacy of success and innovation of USC School of Cinematic Arts alumni. The medal placements for the film award categories will be announced in a virtual ceremony on October 21st.