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Farm Flicks

“When I’m judging a festival and the lights go down, within 20 seconds I can spot a Stanford film, because it is perfectly styled, the focus is perfect, the lighting is perfect and the storytelling is great,” says Gail Silva, who sits on the advisory board of the Sundance Festival and directs the Film Arts Foundation, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that supports independent filmmakers. “The program turns out extremely high-caliber filmmakers who consistently go on to illustrious careers.”

Here’s a sampling of their works:

Brother Outsider, co-directed and co-produced by Nancy Kates, MA ’95, aired in January on PBS. Chronicling the tumultuous life of Bayard Rustin, an early civil rights leader who was ostracized for being gay, it was named best documentary feature at the Cinequest Film Festival and at the Lesbian and Gay Film Festival in Turin, Italy.

Daddy and Papa, about gay couples who decide to raise children together, aired on PBS in June and has won more than a dozen festival awards. Director-producer Johnny Symons, MA ’97, who teaches in the Stanford program, also co-produced Long Night’s Journey Into Day, on South Africa’s truth and reconciliation efforts, which won the Sundance Film Festival’s grand jury prize for best documentary in 2000.

Daughter from Danang, edited by Kim Roberts, MA ’96, follows a young Vietnamese-born woman who was raised in Tennessee by an adoptive family, as she returns to Vietnam to meet her birth family, with disturbing consequences. Shown in theaters across the nation, it won last year’s Sundance grand jury prize. While at Stanford, Roberts received a Student Academy Award for Miriam Is Not Amused, about the long and resilient marriage of beat poet Kenneth Patchen and his wife, Miriam Patchen.

Girls Like Us, by Jane Wagner, MA ’88, and Tina DiFeliciantonio, MA ’87, follows four South Philadelphia girls from ages 14 to 18 as they face their sexuality and other issues of adolescence. Released in 1997, it won the Sundance grand jury prize and a National Emmy Award for outstanding cultural program.

Occidental Encounters, the thesis film of Yuriko Gamo Romer, MA ’97, won a Student Academy Award and a Heartland Film Festival award. It examines Japanese-American intercultural marriages, including the filmmaker’s own.

Samsara, exploring Cambodian life in the aftermath of Pol Pot’s killing fields, was the thesis film of Ellen Bruno, MA ’90. It won a Sundance award and the Edward R. Murrow Award. Another Bruno film, Sacrifice—about children taken from Burma and used as prostitutes in neighboring Thailand—earned honors in 1998 from Sundance, the San Francisco International Film Festival and the National Educational Film Festival.

Shooting War: The Combat Cameramen of WWII, produced by Steven Spielberg and assistant-edited by Laura Almo, MA ’98, premiered on ABC on Pearl Harbor Day, 2000.

Slender Existence, a memoir of life as an anorexic by Laura Murray, MA ’99, garnered a Student Academy Award as well as honors from the Ann Arbor and Marin County film festivals.

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