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Santa Monica College Film Wins Prague Festival Award
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By Lookout Staff

August 24, 2016 -- A Santa Monica College student film about the trials and tribulations of a black woman in the 1960s won Best Short Film at the 2016 Prague Independent Film Festival (PIFF) last week.

Written and directed by SMC student Kevin Maxwell, "CORA" was among the 291 films submitted by professional filmmakers from around the world, college officials said. Of those, 33 were selected by an international jury to compete.

Countries represented in the festival included the US, the UK, the Czech Republic, Spain, Russia, Bulgaria, France, Lebanon and Germany, officials said.

“CORA is an incredibly powerful film that embodies the very essence of what we’re doing at Santa Monica College’s film production program," said Salvador Carrasco, head of SMC Film Production.

"Not only was this film rigorously conceived and executed," he said, "but it also has something meaningful to say about racial and domestic relations in the US in the 60s -- and today.”

"CORA," which stars actress Latarsha Rose -- best known for her role as Portia in the 2012 film "The Hunger Games" -- tells the story of a black woman "who fights racism and domestic abuse in the 1960s, only to face the toughest choice of her life," college officials said.

Maxwell originally planned to produce a documentary based on the true-life story of his grandmother, who ran a restaurant in the Jim Crow south of the 1960s and was trapped in an abusive marriage.

He shot some footage for the film, but failed to raise funds and decided to write a dramatic screenplay instead. Nearly three dozen SMC students worked to bring the script to the big screen, Carrasco said.

The Prague award "gives further legitimacy to (SMC's) budding filmmaking program, but the real standout here is how 30 SMC students from all walks of life brought their talent, passion and impeccable work ethic to help materialize Kevin’s dream of telling his grandmother’s story,” Carrasco said.

SMC’s film production program has released eight short films, all of which have garnered regional, national and international recognition, college officials said. The films can be viewed on the “Santa Monica College Film Program” channel on YouTube.

"CORA" was screened at The 19th American Pavilion Emerging Filmmaker Showcase at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival this spring and was shortlisted for a 2016 BAFTA U.S. Student Film Award ("Santa Monica College Student Film Headed to Cannes," April 27, 2016).

To learn more about SMC's Associate of Science degree and Certificate of Achievement in Film Production, visit or email

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