June 27, 2019
2 Awards at Silicon Beach Film Fest
SMC Film Program Wins Two Awards at 4th Annual Silicon Beach Film Festival
SANTA MONICA, CA—Two Santa Monica College (SMC) student films have won awards at the 4th Annual Silicon Beach Film Festival. “Once Upon a Woman” won Best Western Film and “Ritornare”—a co-production with CinemadaMare Italy—won Best Student Short Film. The showcase of national and international films took place June 14-20 at the Cinemark 18 & XD located at the Howard Hughes Center.
Directed by SMC alum Wayne Hodges and co-written by Hodges and SMC alum Alci Rengifo, “Once Upon a Woman” is a revisionist Western set after the Civil War in which both cowboys and Indians struggle with personal conflicts against the approach of the railroad and impending doom.
“Westerns have always been my cup of tea,” said Hodges. “Growing up on a dairy farm in rural Idaho, Westerns were the first movie genre I truly got. I watched and re-watched more Westerns as a kid than any other movie type combined. Every time I see ‘Once Upon A Woman,’ I realize that we at SMC were able to create and realize a Western that I personally like as much as any Western I have ever seen before!”
Co-writer Alci Rengifo added that the film is “a visceral story about violent men in a land where passions easily spiral into conflict. The bloodshed is a veil over very deep emotions. Shooting it was unforgettable . . . we couldn’t have done it without Prof. Carrasco and the rest of the crew. We were all like Ahab [in Herman Melville’s classic novel Moby Dick] but in the unforgiving Mojave Desert, hunting the whale, and now we get to share it with everyone!”
“Once Upon A Woman” was filmed on location at Calico Ghost Town, a California Historical landmark, with the SMC Film 33 (“Making the Short Film”) class functioning as a complete, professional film crew-in-training under the supervision of SMC Film Production head Salvador Carrasco. Wayne Hodges is a proud veteran alum; the film was partially funded by a generous donation from American Legion Pacific Palisades Post #283.
“Both ‘Once Upon A Woman’ and ‘Ritornare’ are highly original films that take a genre and turn it on its head with incredibly satisfying results,” said Carrasco. “Both Joelle and Wayne are well-versed in film history, and they combined that knowledge with great instinct and a regard for aesthetics, all of which elevates their shorts beyond the category of student films.”
Written and directed by SMC student Joelle Brianne Graham, “Ritornare” received its world premiere at the Silicon Beach Film Festival. It is about a lesbian nun in Sicily who decides to follow her own moral compass, beyond the restraints of a conservative church and society. “Ritornare” was filmed in its entirety in Erice, Sicily. A co-production between SMC Film Production Program and CinemadaMare in Italy, this is the latest in a fruitful partnership responsible for thought-provoking films that have garnered international awards, including “Spaghetti Romance,” directed by SMC alum Carrie Finklea, which competed at the 20th American Pavilion Emerging Filmmaker Showcase at the Cannes Film Festival.
Joelle Brianne Graham is an accomplished actress who enrolled in the SMC Film Program to learn about “the other side of the camera” and has now fallen in love with directing, which she is determined to pursue. “Ritornare is a film about the journey towards self-acceptance and all the struggle, beauty, and bravery that comes with embracing oneself wholly,” said Graham. “Like our heroine, we are all asked at some point to re-examine social moralities and we must decide for ourselves what is right. The title “Return” (in Italian) comes from the idea that when we haven’t worked something out within ourselves, we subconsciously seek to return to a similar circumstance for resolution.”
“Ritornare” also features stunning cinematography by SMC student Abishek Chandrasekar, originally from India, who recalls: “"The film was shot completely in daylight and working around the challenging weather in Sicily. Now seeing how it all came together gives me a great sense of satisfaction."
The Silicon Beach Film Festival is an annual event that aims to give emerging independent filmmakers a showcase for their talent. Filmmakers from the United States and across the world are eligible to participate. Both short and long form films are showcased at the festival.
SMC offers an Associate in Science degree and Certificate of Achievement in film production. To learn more, visit the Film Program website or email Carrasco_Salvador@smc.edu. The film program—as well as the films that come out of it—is on the “Santa Monica College Film Program” YouTube channel.