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‘Stunning’ Short Film Exploring Landscape, Memory Selected as 8th Kamil Media Awards Grand Prize

UC San Diego undergraduate filmmakers celebrated in annual competition, a tribute to creativity and using media to connect people

Kamil Family and award winners
From left, Jeff Kamil, Grand Prize winners Emily Butler and Ryan Bradford, Elaine Kamil and Trudy Carver, a friend of the Kamil family. (Photo by Nicholas Lesley/ UC San Diego Department of Visual Arts)


  • Anthony King

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  • Anthony King

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From left, Jeff Kamil, Grand Prize winners Emily Butler and Ryan Bradford, Elaine Kamil and Trudy Carver, a friend of the Kamil family. (Photo by Nicholas Lesley/ UC San Diego Department of Visual Arts)

The winning submission in this year’s UC San Diego Adam Douglas Kamil Media Awards is an experimental narrative that focuses on urban landscapes, the environment and memory — a short film the Department of Visual Arts jury calls “striking and stunning.”

Undergraduate students Emily Butler and Ryan Bradford’s winning film “Lone Pair Prelude” is a science-fiction allegory produced through the sophisticated use of framing and voice over, the jury said, celebrating its “powerful” and “poetic” tone. In addition to the grand prize honor, the students will receive $2,000.

Bradford and Butler were on hand Friday, May 18 at the department’s annual media awards exhibition and presentation, eagerly anticipating the award announcements with their fellow student filmmakers. Now in its eighth year, the 2018 competition included 24 submissions ranging in lengths from one to 20 minutes.

Documentary, fiction, narration, experimental: all genres were represented this year and professor Brian Cross, the emcee for the evening, said the competition provides great value for UC San Diego undergraduate filmmakers, giving most their first opportunity to create a film at this level.

“The jury was unanimous and enthusiastic in their verdict of the winner for this year,” Cross said, reading the official statement from the review committee. Judging on originality, depth of engagement and execution, the jury consisted of Cross, Babette Mangolte and Mariana Wardwell, all of the Department of Visual Arts.

“The poetic and allegorical use of urban landscape and text montage present three characters trapped in a paranoid, eerie near future, where the merging of constructive nature and urban infrastructure erodes memory,” they wrote. “The jury was captivated by the flawless and uncanny visual poetics of the film.”

Shot on 16mm film, Butler and Bradford’s “Prelude” is a condensed version of a larger project they are currently developing. “Our ideas were produced in the context of living in La Jolla, while grappling with the ‘pristine’ nature of this city, against the sounds and drama of construction,” they wrote in the synopsis.

“I think we’re both really shocked and humbled,” Bradford said when accepting the award, explaining that he had submitted work to the competition for three years. “This is my last year here, and I’m just really grateful to … everyone who put this together.” Butler called the award a wonderful validation, saying she felt “very encouraged” as a woman of color.

Finalists with the Kamils

From left, Ryan Bradford, Emily Butler, Jeff Kamil, Lan Yao, Elaine Kamil and Claudius Ansah. (Photo by Nicholas Lesley/ UC San Diego Department of Visual Arts)

The Department of Visual Arts awarded two Finalist prizes, with each student team receiving $1,000. Winners were Claudius Ansah and Cristina Damse for their film “Case 0000,” and Boyang Xu and Lan Yao for their film “The Sisters.”

“Case 0000” documents the human-rights struggle at the Mexico-United States border, following a team from the local nonprofit Border Angels as they provide resources to migrants traveling through the desert. Ansah accepted the award, saying they wanted to make a film that was important to them as first-generation U.S. citizens.

“The jury recognizes the serious and vital importance of the commitment of our students to engage with the most pressing political issues facing us while understanding that the formal and the political are interrelated,” Cross said.

In “The Sisters,” Xu and Yao present a “lucid, eloquent and intimate” portrait of three individuals in the San Diego chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a LGBT activist organization that blurs traditional gender lines and supports community. Praising the students’ cinematography, the jury said the film “brings back the always-latent promise of observational cinema as a tool for creating emancipation and poetic testimonies.”

Honorable mentions were given to Jimmy Cong for his film “Legally Blind,” and Alan Luna, Edward Muallem and Yaniv Shemesh for their film “A Land of Living Rebellion.”

guests in gallery

Guests were able to view each film before the reception in the Adam D. Kamil Gallery. (Photo by Nicholas Lesley/ UC San Diego Department of Visual Arts)

The annual awards presentation and reception is dedicated to Adam Douglas Kamil, a UC San Diego Department of Visual Arts media major with a passion for the power of media to connect people. To honor the memory of their son, Jeff and Elaine Kamil established the Adam Douglas Kamil Media Awards in 2009, with the first honors given the following year.

The awards were developed to help UC San Diego undergraduates polish their skills in film production and to help them realize their creative potential in the field. In 2014, the Kamil family endowed the awards program with a $150,000 gift. In memory of Adam and in recognition of their gift, the Mandeville Center Gallery Annex was named the Adam D. Kamil Gallery.

“We established the Adam Douglas Kamil Student Media Award in our son’s memory, especially as a tribute to his creativity and to his belief in the power of the media to connect people,” Elaine Kamil said.

Located on the lower level of the Mandeville Center, the Adam D. Kamil Gallery is a space where undergraduate visual arts students can exhibit their work, organize a performance or curate a group exhibition. The media awards exhibition is just one of numerous shows that take place each year. Learn more about the UC San Diego Department of Visual Arts.

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