Tisch and Gallatin alumni win in four categories, including US Grand Jury Prize: Documentary and Audience Award: US Dramatic

Tisch Sundance Panel
Tisch Sundance Filmmaker Panel: (l-r) Ricky Camilleri, host/producer, Build Series with alumni directors Craig Johnson, Kirsten Tan, Lucy Walker, Amanda Lipitz. Photo by Brian Nicholson

The Sundance Film Festival presented the 2017 Jury and Audience Awards on Saturday, January 29 in Park City, Utah. Four alumni of the Tisch School of the Arts and one from the Gallatin School of Individualized Study walked away with awards. In all, there were seven winning films that had alumni and students from New York University attached.

Dan Sickles ‘10 (Tisch, BFA, Drama) and Antonio Santini ‘10 (Gallatin, BA) took home the US Grand Jury Prize for Documentary for Dina, an intimate true story of a 49-year-old woman who seeks to overcome mental disability and past romantic trauma to pursue a relationship with a man with Aspergers. Adam Uhl ’10 (Gallatin, BA), was the film’s cinematographer.

Matt Ruskin ‘02 (Tisch, BFA, Film & TV) received the Audience Award for U.S. Dramatic Filmmaking for Crown Heights, which he both wrote and directed. Crown Heights is a dramatic portrayal of the true story of Colin Warner, wrongfully convicted in the infamous 1980 shooting, and his best friend, Carl King, who devotes his life to freeing his friend. Fellow Tisch alumni also attached to the film included Cherelle Cargill '97 (BFA, Acting) who played the role of Diane Cardwell; Ari Issler '01 (BFA, Film & TV), co-producer/a camera operator/additional cinematography; Ben Kutchins '00 (BFA, Film & TV), cinematographer; and Paul Greenhouse '01 (BFA, Film & TV), editor. Crown Heights was acquired by Amazon.

Amanda Lipitz ’01 (Tisch, BFA, Drama) was awarded the US Documentary Special Jury Award for Inspirational Filmmaking for STEP, which documents the story three high school seniors and dancers from the inaugural class of the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women. The school famously pledged to send every student to college, despite the barriers that their home lives and community might present, and the film depicts the struggles and triumphs these young women experience in trying to achieve this goal. STEP was acquired by Fox Searchlight.

And Pop Aye, written and directed by Kirsten Tan (Tisch, MFA, film) was honored with a World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Screenplay. Pop Aye is a road trip comedy about a once-illustrious architect who discovers his former pet elephant performing in the streets of Bangkok and seeks to return him to rural Loei, the small Thai village where they grew up. Pop Aye was acquired by Kino Lorber.

The Tisch School had a particularly strong showing at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, with over 147 Tisch alumni associated with over one third of the projects at the festival. A full list of Tisch alumni, faculty and students with work in the festival is here.