PRAGUE/LOS ANGELES – The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences website has unveiled the films selected for the finals of the prestigious Student Academy Awards competition. Rising Above, an animated documentary made by FAMU student Natálie Durchánková has made it among the seven films in the documentary category that can win the most prestigious student film award. The winners of this year’s 50th edition will be officially revealed in Los Angeles on 24 October 2023.
This year, a total of 26 films from 10 countries and 22 film schools across the globe made it to the finals of the Student Oscars across four categories: experimental, animated, documentary, and feature films. In the documentary category, 17 films made it to the semifinals and seven to the finals, of which five were made in the USA and two in Europe, in the UK and the Czech Republic.
“I bared my breasts in court to show the wounds he inflicted upon me. He was convicted for a rape and attempted murder. Justice rather than revenge.” Utterances such as this are part of the chilling account of a woman whose traumatic experience a third-year student of the Department of Animated Film chose to make into a film. The four-minute anidoc guides viewers through a nightmare experience as well as the difficult effort of processing and healing that requires formidable mental strength and determination.
“We worked on Rising Above for about a year; I started the process by searching for a survival story. I received multiple responses, but when I first encountered the story of the film’s protagonist, I was overwhelmed by her spiritual strength and resilience. I knew right away that I had found my film’s story. The production was a complex process – each decision to make reminded us how tricky the topic of the story is. I keep in touch with the respondent, and as far as the reception of the film is concerned, it was her opinion that I was most nervous about, since portraying her story with dignity was my chief priority. Her highly positive reaction exceeded my expectations – the film has further helped her healing process, which to me is the greatest achievement of all. As part of our communication, I inform the respondent about the film’s successes at various festivals, which make us both immensely happy. The respondent’s strength is inspiring to me, which is why I am really happy about the fact that being in the Student Oscars finals can help her story reach wider audiences and could help more people on the path towards healing, and this is what both the respondent and I consider crucial,” author Natálie Durchánková says about the process of making the film.
An intimate and highly emotional probe into the soul of a heavily traumatised woman premiered at the Anifilm festival and made it to the semifinals of the prestigious BAFTA Awards. From 31 August on, viewers can see it in cinemas as part of the new FAMU Four series, a continuation of the FAMU in Cinema distribution project. The series features four globally successful student films coming from the Film and TV School that have two things in common: a warm reception on the international scene and an extreme personal experience that the protagonists, mostly female, are striving to process. Natálie Durchánková authored this year edition’s poster.
“A straightforward yet sensitive account of a traumatic violent experience and the recovery process, it works with animation, which allows for using a poetic language, hints, and descriptiveness different from a purely documentary form. Hybridisation, or combining genre conventions of feature, documentary, animated, and experimental film has been a powerful trend in global cinema over the past decade, and student Natálie Durchánková explores it in a bold animated documentary, which is evocative and immersive while avoiding using emotional coercion on audiences. It shows the resilience of a heroine who, despite suffering a brutal act, transformed her injury into personal strength,” Dean of FAMU Andrea Slováková responds to the announcement of the finalists.
History of the finals
The Student Academy Awards competition aims to support talents and connect them across continents. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has been giving this award for the best student film achievements since 1972. Over the course of its history, two Czech films have won the prestigious award – Jan Svěrák’s Oil Gobblers graduation mockumentary, and Daria Kashcheeva’s animated Daughter in 2019. Three more Czechs made it to the finals over time: Miloš Zábranský with The Fever of a Weekday in 1982, Aurel Klimt with his Bloodthirsty Hugo eastern in 1998, and Václav Švankmajer with Test two years later. This year’s finals are a first for FAMU, as this is the first ever Czech student film to make it to the finals in the documentary category.
About the film
Directed by: Natálie Durchánková
Produced by: FAMU
Year of production: 2023
Duration: 4 min
Country: Czech Republic
About FAMU Four
Films: Dede is Dead (Philippe Kastner), Eighth Day (Petr Pylypčuk), Rising Above (Natálie Durchánková), Electra (Daria Kashcheeva)
In cinemas from: 31 August 2023
Distribution company: Pilot Film
Duration: 60 min
Official website: http://pilot-film.cz/famu-four/
Head of Communication and PR
18. August 2023