Columbia Films Win at the 2022 Oscars
BY Angeline Dimambro, March 31, 2022
UPDATE: March 31, 2022
The 94th annual Academy Awards took place on Sunday, March 27, 2022, and three projects with a connection to Columbia University took home awards.
Encanto received the honor of best Animated Feature Film. From Disney and executive produced by alumna Jennifer Lee ’05, Encanto follows Mirabel, a Colombian teenage girl, who has to face the frustration of being the only member of her family without magical powers.
Ariana Debose was awarded Best Actress in a Leading Role for her performance in West Side Story. The film, executive produced and written by Tony Kushner '78 (CC), is an adaptation of the 1957 musical of the same name and explores forbidden love and the rivalry between the Jets and the Sharks, two teenage street gangs of different ethnic backgrounds.
Will Smith won in the category of Actor in a Leading role for his work in King Richard. The film offers a look at how tennis superstars Venus and Serena Williams became who they are after being coached by their father, Richard Williams. Acting alumnus Robert Walker Jeffrey '18 is featured in the film as a reporter from Florida.
Read the complete list of winners here.
The 94th annual Academy Awards ceremony is scheduled to take place on Sunday, March 27, 2022. Seven films from Columbia filmmakers have received nominations. They are: The Lost Daughter, written and directed by alumna Maggie Gyllenhaal '99 (CC), Encanto, executive produced by alumna Jennifer Lee ’05, Raya and the Last Dragon, also executive produced by Lee, West Side Story, executive produced and written by Tony Kushner '78 (CC), House of Gucci, co-written by alumnus Roberto Bentivegna ’10, King Richard, which features acting alumnus Robert Walker Jeffery '18, and Ascension, directed and produced by Jessica Kingdon ’09 (CC).
The Lost Daughter, which is based on the Elena Ferrante novel of the same name, is Gyllenhaal’s psychological drama about a college professor who confronts memories of her early motherhood while on vacation in Italy. The film marks Gyllenhaal’s directorial debut and has received widespread acclaim. Gyllenhaal is nominated in the category of Writing (Adapted Screenplay) for her work adapting Ferrante’s brilliant novel. The film has also received nominations in the categories of Actress in a Leading Role (Olivia Colman) and Actress in a Supporting Role (Jessi Buckley).
After premiering at the Venice International Film Festival in 2021, where it also took home the prize for Best Screenplay, the film received three nominations at the Gotham Awards in New York City, two Golden Globe nominations, and four nominations at the 2022 Independent Spirit Awards,
Maggie Gyllenhaal is an American actress and filmmaker. Gyllenhaal has appeared in numerous Hollywood films, including Christopher Nolan’s acclaimed The Dark Knight. In 2009, she was nominated for an Academy Award for her role in the Scott Cooper drama Crazy Heart. In 2014, she won a Golden Globe for her titular performance in the BBC political-thriller series The Honourable Woman.
Lee is the executive producer of Encanto and Raya and the Last Dragon. Both films are nominated in the category of Animated Feature Film, with Encanto also scoring nominations in the categories of Music (Original Score) and Music (Original Song). In Encanto, Mirabel, a Colombian teenage girl, has to face the frustration of being the only member of her family without magical powers. Raya and the Last Dragon takes place in a realm known as Kumandra, a re-imagined Earth inhabited by an ancient civilization, and follows a warrior named Raya who is determined to find the last dragon.
Jennifer Lee is an American screenwriter, film director, and Chief Creative Officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios. She is best known as the writer and director of Frozen (2013) and its sequel Frozen II (2019), the former of which earned her an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. Lee is the first female director of a Walt Disney Animation Studios feature film and the first female director of a feature film that earned more than $1 billion in gross box office revenue. In 2014, Frozen won the Academy Award, BAFTA Award, and Annie Award for Best Animated Feature.
Kushner is the writer and executive producer of West Side Story, which is nominated for a staggering seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Directing, Cinematography, Actress in a Leading Role (Ariana DeBose), Costume Design, Production Design, and Sound. An adaptation of the 1957 musical of the same name, West Side Story explores forbidden love and the rivalry between the Jets and the Sharks, two teenage street gangs of different ethnic backgrounds.
Tony Kushner is an award-winning author, playwright, and screenwriter. His play Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes earned him the 1993 Pulitzer Prize, among many other awards. The play was also adapted into a miniseries in 2003 and starred Meryl Streep, Al Pacino, Justin Kirk, Jeffrey Wright, Emma Thompson, and Mary-Louise Parker. His other acclaimed plays include Slavs!, Homebody/Kabul, and Caroline, or Change.
House of Gucci is nominated in the category of Makeup and Hairstyling. Directed by Academy Award nominee Ridley Scott (Alien, Gladiator, Thelma and Louise) and based on Sara Gay Forden’s book The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed (Custom House, 2001), the film follows Patrizia Reggiani, an outsider from humble beginnings. When she marries into the Gucci family, her unbridled ambition begins to unravel their legacy and triggers a reckless spiral of betrayal, decadence, revenge, and ultimately, murder. Bentivegna, who is fluent in Italian and whose parents are both Italian, found a way to imbue the story with his own personal touch. In an interview with Observer magazine, he discussed how pulling from his memories of Italy with his parents allowed him to lend an authentic voice to the script.
The film’s star studded cast includes Academy Award winner Lady Gaga, Academy Award nominee Adam Driver, Academy Award winner Al Pacino, Academy Award winner Jeremy Irons, Academy Award winner Jared Leto, and Academy Award nominee Salma Hayek. Lady Gaga received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture, Drama category for her performance.
Roberto Bentivegna was born in London of Italian parents. He grew up in Milan and London, attending Emerson College in Boston before pursuing an MFA at Columbia University. His short films have screened at international film festivals including Locarno, Atlanta, and Miami, and are distributed by Film Movement and Shorts International. Whilst at Columbia University, Bentivegna was awarded the Carla Kuhn fellowship, the Hollywood Foreign Press Award, the Alfred P. Sloan Screenwriting award, and the honor of Faculty Selects for his screenplay A Day in March. He was also a finalist in the Academy's Nicholl Fellowship. Bentivegna has been awarded residencies at Yaddo, the Nantucket Screenwriters Colony, and was a fellow in the Italian Government's Apulia Film Program. His screenplays include Shella for acclaimed photographer Albert Watson; The Eel, which was featured on the 2012 Black List and is currently in development with talent Sam Rockwell and Maria Bello attached to star; Spirit House for Film Nation; an adaptation of A.M. Homes' May We Be Forgiven for director Lynne Ramsay and Artificial Eye; as well as The Disappearance of a Quiet Man for producers Chris Coen and Alan Moloney. He will also adapt Jo Nesbo’s novella The Jealousy Man into a feature for Amazon Studios.
Nominated in the category of Best Documentary Feature is Ascension, directed by Kingdon. The film is an observational documentary that explores the pursuit of the "Chinese Dream,” presenting a contemporary vision of China that prioritizes productivity and innovation above all. In addition to directing the project, Kingdon also served as one of the film’s cinematographers and producers. She is also credited as the film’s editor.
“For American viewers who just stumble on it, I really hope they see themselves in the film rather than as something that doesn’t include them or affect them,” Kingdon said in an interview with IndieWire. “I hope they feel, in a visceral sense, this interdependence of the global supply chain and question their own nation’s superiority.” Kingdon recently signed with Anonymous Content for management after receiving her first Academy Award nomination for the film. Ascension is available to stream now on Paramount+.
Jessica Kingdon is a Chinese-American director/producer named one of “25 New Faces of Independent Film” by Filmmaker Magazine and selected for the 2020 DOC NYC “40 Under 40” list. Her first documentary feature, Ascension登楼叹 (2021), won Best Documentary at the Tribeca Festival and Hamptons International Film Festival. The film has received nominations from the the DGA Awards, Spirit Awards, the Gotham and the International Documentary Association along with five Cinema Eye nominations and six Critic’s Choice nominations. Her award-winning short Commodity City (2017) is an observational documentary about the world’s largest wholesale mall in Yiwu, China and played at over 50 film festivals. She co-directed the short It’s Coming (2020), and Routine Island (2019). Her work has been supported by organizations including SFFILM, Chicken & Egg, Cinereach, Sundance, Field of Vision, and Firelight Media. Kingdon has served in producorial roles on Tania Cypriano’s Born to Be (NYFF 2019), Nathan Truesdell’s The Water Slide (True/False 2018), and Johnny Ma’s Old Stone (Berlinale 2016). Residencies include UnionDocs and a MacDowell Fellowship. She is a member of the Brooklyn Filmmakers Collective and Brown Girls Doc Mafia.
King Richard received numerous nominations as well, in the categories of Best Picture, Actor in a Leading Role (Will Smith), Actress in a Supporting Role (Aunjanue Ellis), Film Editing, Music (Original Song), and Writing (Original Screenplay). King Richard offers a look at how tennis superstars Venus and Serena Williams became who they are after being coached by their father, Richard Williams. Jeffrey is featured in the film as a reporter from Florida.
Robert Walker Jeffery is an actor and writer based in Brooklyn. He stars in the independent feature That Cold Dead Look In Your Eyes, directed by Onur Tukel, and made his onscreen debut in Pippa Bianco's Girl Talk while at Yale. Jeffrey wrote and stars in the independent half-hour TV pilot "Inpatient," which premiered in competition at 2019 Seriesfest. His NYC theater credits include leading roles in Love Cures at The Players Theatre and Waiting For Giovanni at The Flea. He holds a BA from Yale and an MFA from Columbia University.