Campus: San Francisco State University -- November 10, 2004

SFSU Student Filmmaker Wins Several Prestigious Awards For Film On Russia

Cinema master's degree candidate Victoria Gamburg wins Angelus, Princess Grace awards

San Francisco State University student Victoria Gamburg's hard work and perseverance to make thought-provoking films is paying off. She recently won two Angelus Awards and a Princess Grace Award two of the highest honors for student filmmakers in the country.

The $10,000 Patrick Peyton Excellence in Filmmaking Award is the grand prize of the Angelus Awards, created and conducted by Family Theater Productions in Hollywood. She also won a $1,500 Angelus Award for screenwriting. The awards, judged by notable filmmakers and industry executives, honor undergraduate and graduate student films of uncommon artistic caliber that explore the complexity of the human condition with creativity, compassion and respect. This year, more than 400 films were submitted from 149 universities in 23 countries. Gamburg is the first SFSU student to win an Angelus Award.

The Princess Grace Award is a grant given to dance, theater and film students by Monaco's royal family and the Princess Grace Foundation-USA. Gamburg is the 11th SFSU student to win a Princess Grace award since 1989.

The budding filmmaker is completing her thesis project, the 21-minute "Twilight." Shot on 16-mm film, it was made during three trips to St. Petersburg, Russia, at the height of White Nights. Against this backdrop of perpetual northern twilight, the film's lead character searches for her missing daughter. The circumstances of the girl's disappearance are a mystery; one day she did not come home from school. After three years of fruitless searching, during which she must deal with an uncaring post-Soviet bureaucracy, the mother makes a potentially life-altering decision.

"Twilight" explores issues of spirituality and loss, Gamburg said.

"The film taps into everyday human anxieties," she said. "How do we understand our place in the world without a firm belief system? How do we find personal meaning and happiness in a world perpetually ravaged by poverty and war?"

Cinema Assistant Professor Jennifer Hammett, one of Gamburg's instructors, said she is "a filmmaker of great integrity and professionalism" with a limitless future.

"Victoria has made a stunningly beautiful film that treats very basic human emotions the loss of a child, the search for redemption in subtle and moving ways," Hammett said. "The film's success in bringing the spectator into the emotional world of the female protagonist and its refusal to supply simple solutions to the dilemmas it presents are simply extraordinary for a student film."

Gamburg was born in Russia and moved to the United States at age 4. She became interested in making films during her adolescence, when she watched classic foreign films in her living room in Atlanta. Her parents were both theater directors in Russia, so creating a visual narrative came naturally to her.

"Twilight" is Gamburg's second film in Russia. Her first film was shot while a student at Smith College. After earning her bachelor's degree, Gamburg went back to Russia and took a forgettable job as an interpreter for the special-effects team of the straight-to-video film "Police Academy 7." In the early 1990s at age 22, she took a job as a program hub director for an international exchange program in Kazakhstan. Traveling to cities recently freed from Soviet rule, she conducted English tests for children interested in participating in exchange programs.

The experiences Gamburg had in Russia have had a strong influence on her filmmaking. One of three students nationwide to win a 2000 Jacob K. Javits Fellowship in Cinema from the U.S. Department of Education, she describes herself as adventurous and persistent.

For more about Gamburg, visit her Web site at www.gamburgfilms.com.

Founded amid the political activism and artistic experimentation of the 1960s, the SFSU Cinema Department has educated generations of filmmakers including Academy Award winners Steven Zaillian (Best Screenplay, "Schindler's List," 1994), Christopher Boyes (Best Sound, "Titanic," 1998, "Pearl Harbor," 2001, "Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King," 2004) and Steve Okazaki (Best Short Documentary, "Days of Waiting," 1991). In 2000, Entertainment Weekly named the department one of the nation's top film schools.

Media Contact: Matt Itelson, (415) 338-1743; (415) 338-1665; matti@sfsu.edu


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