Columbia University School of the Arts Film Program alumna Liz Chae (Film '09) won the gold medal in the Documentary category for her film "The Last Mermaids" at the 36th Annual Student Academy Awards, a competition for college and university filmmakers. The announcement and ceremony took place on June 13 at the Samuel Goldwyn Theatre in Los Angeles.
For her film, Chae spent months living with the chief of one of the last remaining tribes of women sea divers, Haenyos, of Jeju Island in South Korea. For 2,000 years, the Haenyos have fought men, governments, and armies to protect their right to make a living from the sea. Now they want the tradition to stop–these are "The Last Mermaids."
Additionally, "The Wait," produced by three Columbia University Journalism School filmmakers, Cassandra Lizaire ('09JRN), Alicia Tejada II ('09JRN), and Kelly Asmuth ('09JRN) won the silver medal in the Documentary category.
Each year, more than 500 filmmakers from across the country compete for the awards. For the first time ever, Columbia filmmakers swept the Eastern region in the Documentary category, helming all three documentaries ("The Last Mermaids," "The Wait," and "Win or Lose: A Summer Camp Story," written and directed by Louis Lapat [Film '07]) that progressed to the national level of competition.
"Being awarded development funds from A&E allowed this project to take off," Chae said. The A&E IndieFilms Talent Development Award for Nonfiction Filmmaking is an annual Columbia University Film Festival award that provides funds for a writer/director to complete a nonfiction thesis film.
"Creating original music under the ASCAP workshop brought the film to a higher level. The post support at Columbia helped me through the technical challenges. And all the criticism, feedback, teachings and push to maximize the story that I wanted to tell from my professors and mentors has helped me enormously in making the film what it is now." Chae's film was one of four thesis films at SOA selected for participation in the ASCAP Foundation Film Scoring Workshop, a hands-on workshop that enables filmmakers to work with emerging composers in a collaborative way.
"The Last Mermaids" also screened in the Shorts in Competition: Documentary category at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival in New York this April.
To view clips of "The Last Mermaids" and "The Wait": http://www.oscars.org/awards/saa/winners/2009.html