POUGHKEEPSIE, NY – When film major Alex Camilleri graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Vassar College on May 23, he had more than a few stars in his eyes. And it had to do with a lot more than the commencement speech by Vassar alumna Lisa Kudrow, or with fellow alumna Meryl Streep attending commencement as a college trustee.
Camilleri had just flown back from a whirlwind 3-day stay in Cannes, France, where his work Still Here was screened during the world's most prestigious film festival, and was then awarded best student documentary by the American Pavilion Emerging Filmmaker Showcase. Still Here was then featured in a special showcase screening for an invited audience of industry professionals (http://www.ampav.com/cannes/emergingFilmmakerShowcase.php).
"I'm a whole bunch of emotions right now without enough perspective to know exactly how I feel," remarked Camilleri (of Rochester, MN). "In the span of a week I finished my final school work, flew to France for Cannes, and came back to Vassar to graduate. Winning the award was, of course, a great honor. It is continually gratifying to experience new audiences having such a positive emotional reaction to the film, even across the Atlantic."
The 21-minute Still Here profiles New York City native Randy Baron, who has been infected with HIV for 30 years, and who through a rare genetic mutation has had the gift of continued health, making him an inadvertent witness to the AIDS epidemic. Still Here goes on to capture how Baron his given his life new meaning by working to help to prevent the spread of the disease that has devastated his life and the lives of his friends (http://www.randyisstillhere.com/).
Camilleri first heard Baron speak to a small group at Vassar in the fall of 2008, and was immediately affected. “His words rattled me," said the newly minted Vassar graduate. "In my past experiences as a young filmmaker, I had really only felt a drive to tell the stories that were important to me and me alone. After hearing Randy’s story, I felt that other people needed to hear it, too.”
Camilerri's film crew included fellow seniors David Viste (videography), Kyle Porter (sound), and Amrita Kundu (editing). Professor of film Ken Robinson advised the project, which was produced for his course Senior Documentary Filmmaking.
Longtime Vassar film professor James Steerman said of Still Here that, "In terms of cinematography, sound, and editing, it is a highly professional achievement that rises far above the average, even excellent, student film." While he generally characterized the documentary as an interview film, Steerman observed that, "In addition to managing to capture Randy Baron's personality and anguish on film in a highly believable manner, Alex and his crew have woven striking images into the film which place Randy's story in a larger and highly visual context. Thus the film becomes much more than simply an effective interview with him. And it has stimulated a powerful emotional response in everyone who has seen it."
In addition to the Cannes spotlight, Still Here has been selected and commended by several other film events (with more applications still pending) :
- New York City Downtown Short Film Festival (Winner, Best Gay/Lesbian Film, 2010)
- SENE Film Music Arts Festival (Winner, Best LGBT Film, 2010)
- Ivy Film Festival (Winner, Audience Choice Award, 2010)
- Accolade Competition (Winner, Award of Excellence in Film, 2010)
- Connecticut Film Festival (Official Selection, 2010)
- Breckenridge Festival (Official Selection, 2010)
About the American Pavilion Emerging Filmmaker Showcase at Cannes
Since its debut at the 1989 Cannes Film Festival, the American Pavilion has offered opportunities in Cannes to film students from around the world. Its Emerging Filmmaker Showcase provides an opportunity for young filmmakers to have their work seen by Cannes Festival and Film Market attendees. Prizes are awarded to filmmakers and the top twelve films are screened in a special “Emerging Filmmaker” showcase at The American Pavilion in Cannes. The American Pavilion building is only a few steps from the Palais des Festivals, where all the major Cannes Film Festival films are premiered.
Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.