There’s a warm glow emanating from the expectant belly of twilight Kreuzberg. Amidst century-old antiquities, low-hanging chandeliers and a fully stocked bar of temptations, the tables are set. Around them, a league of eminent guests sit garbed like silent movie stars, anticipating an unforgettable premiere. If you guessed this auspicious Thursday night to be the Berlin Oscars, then, dear fellow, you would not be far off. For, it’s the 2018 dBs Film Awards, of course! *Drops posh accent along with fake moustache*
After a supercharged year of filmmaking, we invited our talented diploma and degree students for a delicious meal at historic Alt-Berliner tavern Max und Moritz – which takes its name from the classic tale of two terrible tricksters, FYI. But there was no joking about the outstanding short films, documentaries and commercials about to be honoured at the annual awards ceremony. As school founder David Puttick would later enthuse, “I was super impressed at the consistently high quality of the work. A privilege to be present.”
The awards were as follows: Best Editing, Best Sound, Best Cinematography, Best Documentary, Best Commercial, Best Narrative, Best Performance, Best Director and Best Film. The fantastic judges were Berlin Student Film Festival founder Justin Merino, last year’s Best Picture Award winner, director Guðrún Björg Sigurðardóttir Gobi, and director, cinematographer and dBs Film tutor Oliver Valente. So, without further ado, join us as we revisit the star winners and nominees and their equally stellar productions (permission to emoji 👏👏👏).
Drum roll, please…
Cadenza Zhao, Best Sound
Sometimes, storytelling takes courage. It’s having the strength to pry open topics nailed shut and give them a voice – however personal. And much more than pointing fingers and objectifying problems, it’s possessing the sensitivity to encourage empathy in those that listen. When tackling the difficult issue of racial bullying, Best Sound winner Cadenza Zhao scored on all fronts, delivering a beautiful short film that tugs the heart strings from start to finish.
“In my movie Stand Up, Meilin, a young Asian girl is racially bullied by all of her Caucasian classmates,” Cadenza tells us. “As a result of all the insults, she is very depressed and has very low self-esteem. She tries to look like them and wears makeup and different clothes but she just doesn’t feel like herself. One day, her bullies get together and attack her. Hitting the lowest point in her life, she nevertheless finds the courage to embrace who she is and what she looks like. Eventually, she stands up for herself and faces her bullies with kindness instead of revenge, making them regret their actions.
It was no surprise that Cadenza took home the Best Sound award. As we learnt from her My One Thing episode, classical music is her creative fuel, a passion that couldn’t be more evident in the film’s gorgeous soundtrack. The only surprise, perhaps, was from Cadenza herself: “I wasn’t expecting to win anything but I was very happy that all the hours spent editing the sound paid off!”
Masih Tajzai, Best Commercial
They say that the purpose of commercials is, quite simply, to capture your attention. Best Commercial winner Masih Tajzai did that and then some with his breathtaking ad for state-of-the-art spatial sound studio and performance venue MONOM.
“Lea, the main character, finds herself in the studio while the DJ is playing a soundtrack,” Masih explains. “She falls into another state of mind where she feels free and starts dancing. At the end of the commercial, she totally flies in the air. I mixed graphics throughout to give the impression of sound waves surrounding her while she dances.” In fact, the final result is so visually stunning, you forget you’re watching a commercial until the very last moment – the perfect kind of advertising, if you ask us.
“I believe a good team can achieve anything, and creating a good team is also an art,” Masih continues. “This was a win not only for me, but for all of my team. It feels so good and it pushes me to work even harder and win more.”
Follow Masih on Instagram.
Silvia Cannarozzi, Best Narrative
In 1968, Andy Warhol wrote those resonating words, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” And it surely wouldn’t have come as any surprise to the man who once filmed himself indifferently eating a burger what exactly the whole world would get famous for: shitposting, namely.
Silvia Cannarozzi’s fantastic film FARTA takes the phenomenon quite literally, commenting on the worldwide web’s oversharing problem through a funny mother-daughter narrative that all starts with a fart. “My movie is about a mother who has been posting embarrassing pictures of her daughter since an early age,” Silvia tells us. “When the daughter becomes a teenager she sues her mother.” Genius.
On winning the Best Narrative award, Silvia said, “When I won I couldn’t believe it. There were so many amazing movies this term and I didn’t expect that at all. I’m very glad and grateful for all the support from the people who helped in the project.”
Follow Silvia on Instagram.
Gerard O’Keeffe, Best Director
As Screen Acting programme lead Adam Donald asserted in our film career advice guide, “Everyone can manage being happy but those who can show us suffering are few and far between.” Gerard O’Keeffe, director of Fractures, rose to the challenge, adeptly crystallising a heart-wrenching emotion into 11 minutes of spellbinding film – no words required. “As a gay couple try to come to terms with the recent death of their baby,” Gerard explains, “their separate ways of dealing with grief starts to form cracks in their relationship.”
When we asked him how he felt to win the Best Director award, he replied: “Massively surprised! It’s great to get recognition for all the hard work that went into the film from the whole crew. Winning Best Director has really inspired me to keep creating better and better film.” But that’s not all: the talented filmmaker also won Best Cinematography for Caravaggio’s Cupid.
Follow Gerard on Instagram.
Thinking of joining our international creative community as a filmmaker, screen actor or visual FX animator? There’s still time to apply for certificate, diploma and degree courses starting in the next academic year. Applications close Saturday June 30th. Learn more about our film and screen acting courses here.