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Two Santa Monica College Films win Awards at Silicon Beach Festival

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Santa Monica Convention and Visitors

By Lookout Staff

June 27, 2019 -- Two Santa Monica College (SMC) student films -- one shot in Sicily, the other in a California ghost town -- won awards at the 4th Annual Silicon Beach Film Festival this month.

The festival, which took place June 14 to 20 at the Cinemark 18 & XD in the Howard Hughes Center, "gives emerging independent filmmakers a showcase for their talent," school officials said.

"Once Upon a Woman" movie poster "Ritornare" movie poster

“Once Upon a Woman,” shot on location at Calico Ghost Town, won Best Western Film, while “Ritornare,” a co-production with CinemadaMare Italy filmed in Erice, Sicily, won Best Student Short Film.

“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 SMC Film Production head Salvador Carrasco.

Both directors, said Carrasco, "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.”

Directed and co-written by SMC alum Wayne Hodges, “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," school officials said.

“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."

Co-writer Alci Rengifo, also an SMC alum, called the film “a visceral story about violent men in a land where passions easily spiral into conflict.

"The bloodshed is a veil over very deep emotions," said Rengifo.

“Ritornare” also plumbs emotional depths with the story of "a lesbian nun in Sicily who decides to follow her own moral compass," school officials said.

“Ritornare is a film about the journey towards self-acceptance and all the struggle, beauty, and bravery that comes with embracing oneself wholly,” said director Joelle Brianne Graham.

An actress, Graham enrolled in the SMC Film Program, she said, to learn about "the other side of the camera.”

“Ritornare" is the latest partnership between CinemadaMare Italy and the SMC Film Program.

Another co-production, “Spaghetti Romance,” directed by SMC alum Carrie Finklea, competed at the 20th American Pavilion Emerging Filmmaker Showcase at the Cannes Film Festival.

SMC offers an Associate of Science degree and Certificate of Achievement in film production.

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The film program -- as well as the student films -- can be viewed on YouTube on the “Santa Monica College Film Program” channel.

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