Film Alumnus Wins Top Prize at Cannes

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The feature film Aquí y Allá, written and directed by Columbia University School of the Arts Film Program alumnus Antonio Méndez Esparza (’08), has taken top prize at La Semaine de la Critique (Critics Week) at the 65th Annual Cannes Film Festival.

Several other Columbia alumni worked on the film, including Producers Ori Dov Gratch (’02 CC) and Diana Wade (’10), Editor Filippo Conz (’09) and Assistant Director Juan Raigada Fernandez.

Aquí y Allá tells the story of Pedro, a man who returns home to a small mountain village in Guerrero, Mexico after years of working in the United States to face the changes in his family and village. Esparza, known for his careful observation of characters, assembled the cast of Aquí y Allá from non-actors to continue his tradition of exploring and celebrating the everyday texture of immigrant life.

Antonio Méndez Esparza was raised in Madrid, and has lived in New York City, Mexico and Madrid for most of the past decade. Aquí y Allá is his debut narrative feature film. His most recent short film, Una y Otra Vez, which also featured the character Pedro De los Santos, premiered at Slamdance in 2009 and won the David Jones Memorial Award and the Student Choice Award for the Best Directing of Actors at the 22nd Annual Columbia University Film Festival. The film went on to win Best Narrative Short at the 2009 Los Angeles Film Festival and first prize at the Concurso de Cortometrajes Versión Española. Méndez was a finalist at the Student Academy Awards and received the DGA Student Award for Best Latino Filmmaker-East Coast, in addition to other accolades.

Cannes Critics Week was conceived by the French Union of Film Critics in 1962 and aims to showcase first and second feature films by directors from all over the world. Previous directors who screened at Critics Week include Bernardo Bertolucci, Ken Loach and Wong Kar Wai.
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Columbia University School of the Arts offers MFA degrees in Film, Theatre, Visual Arts, and Writing, an MA degree in Film Studies, a joint JD/MFA degree in Theatre Management & Producing, a PhD degree in Theatre History, Literature, and Theory, and an interdisciplinary program in Sound Arts.