Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah’s short film Brothers and Kenneth Mercken’s The Letter will represent Flanders at this year’s 39th Student Academy Awards. On 9 June the winners of the Student Awards, aka the Oscars for best student films, will be announced during an awards ceremony at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills.
With their graduation film, Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah had picked up a VAF Wildcard, an initiative by the Flanders Audiovisual Fund to discover young emerging talent and give them the possibility to start on a new project. Last year, their fictional short also scooped the Audience Award at the Leuven International Short Film Festival and was elected Best Student Film at the Ghent film fest. A modern parable, Brothers sketches the lives of Karim and Nassim, two young men who made different choices in life and whose paths will inevitably lead to conflict.
Kenneth Mercken graduated from the RITS School of Arts with The Letter, a 15-minute short film that also earned him a much-desired VAF Wildcard. The story broaches the subject of illegal narcotics used in sports. When a young Russian travels to Belgium with the hope of one day becoming a pro cyclist, he is soon encouraged by his team coach to use illegal performance-enhancing drugs. Slowly but surely, he loses his grip on reality and is drawn into a dark and twisty world.
In total, 51 entries from 29 different countries are competing in the Best Foreign Student Film category. 518 entries from students representing 105 US colleges and universities are challenging each other in the categories Alternative, Animation, Documentary and Narrative. Nominees will be chosen at the end of May and proceed to the official ceremony on 9 June. Gold, Silver and Bronze Medal Awards and corresponding cash prizes ($5,000, $3,000 and $2,000) are presented to the laureates.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) established the Student Academy Awards in 1972 to support and encourage excellence in filmmaking at the collegiate level. In 1981, the Honorary Foreign Film Award was added to the trophy line-up and was awarded to Jaco Van Dormael’s Maedeli-la-Brèche (INSAS) in its first year. Also in 1981 (Zone surveillée by Olivier Langlois, INSAS) and 1986 (Come, I Have a Story to Tell You by Frédéric Rouillier-Gall, INSAS), the award was won by a Belgian student film. Together with the Flemish film schools RITS and Sint-Lukas, the French-speaking institute INSAS is recognised by AMPAS and therefore eligible to delegate a candidate each year.