By Alexis De La Rosa
Students and alumni from the Department of Cinema and Interactive Media were the overwhelming winners at CinemaSlam, the student competition division of the 34th Annual Miami Film Festival, taking home six out of eight awards.
“I was not surprised by the success of the films. These were ambitious short films by very talented young filmmakers that were worthy of the attention they received,” said Konstantia Kontaxis, associate professor and CinemaSlam liaison for UM.
School of Communication students and alumni won awards for Best Actor, Best Technical Achievement, Best Director, Best Documentary, Best Drama, and CinemaSlam Champion.
Ballet Bus, a film by M.F.A. student Isaac Mead-Long, was named CinemaSlam Champion and Best Documentary. Ballet Bus tells the story of two young boys, Kimani and Kelvin, who were selected to be a part of the Miami City Ballet’s Ballet Bus program that provides fully-subsidized tuition, transportation, and support to kids from Miami-Dade County Title I schools.
The documentary follows Kimani and Kelvin as they embark on a nine-month journey with one of the premier ballet companies in the world. The boys received fully-subsidized tuition, dance attire, family support and counseling, bus transportation, and an opportunity to engage with critically acclaimed instructors and artists.
Mead-Long, who graduated from the University of Miami with a Bachelor of Science in Motion Pictures in 2014 and is now pursing an M.F.A., shot, directed, and edited the film. According to Mead-Long, he was surprised when they announced the winner because the competition featured so many talented cinematographers.
“To be honest, it was a huge surprise. There were a number of other films that played that day that I thought for sure were going to win, especially a short called Kuru, which I thought was amazing. It was an awesome feeling to take home the prize, but I owe it all to the people who helped make it,” said Mead-Long.
Mead-Long said he couldn’t have done it without the help of “one of the best grad filmmakers,” Andrea Garcia Marquez. Marquez was recognized at CinemaSlam with the Best Technical Achievement Award for her work on the film Paradise, featuring George Smith III, who was named Best Actor.
Deer God, a film about the Oroqen,took home the award for Best Drama. The Oroqen are a Chinese minority group of only 8,500 forced to give up their guns after generations of using them to hunt. The government’s gun-control policy regulated who could carry, however, the gun has served as the cornerstone of the Oroqen’s life and culture over centuries.
Deer God was directed by Tomorrow Mingtan, who was named Best Director. Mingtan and her crew spent months battling the harsh winters of China’s Northeastern region, capturing never-before-seen moments with the Oroqen. The film was completed for her M.F.A. thesis last November.
Kontaxis advised Mingtan as she was working on Deer God. According to Kontaxis, the award-winning films are “a testament to the caliber of work produced at the school by our students.”
Full list of UM CinemaSlam winners:
Technical Achievement Award: Paradise, director Andrea García Márquez, M.F.A. candidate
Best Actor: George Smith III for Paradise, director, Andrea García Márquez, M.F.A. candidate
Best Documentary: Ballet Bus, director, Isaac Mead-Long, M.F.A. candidate
Best Drama: Deer God, director, Tomorrow Mingtian, M.F.A. '16
Best Director: Mingtian, M.F.A. '16, for Deer God
Cinemaslam Champion: Ballet Bus, Isaac Mead-Long, M.F.A. candidate