Faculty and Alumni Filmmakers Join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

BY Felix van Kann, September 30, 2019

Alumni Cyril Aris '17, Antoneta Kusijanović '17 and Lauren Wolkstein '10 as well as Professor Katherine Dieckmann were invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences


The four were among 842 artists and executives from 59 countries invited to join this year. The total amount of Academy members has thereby increased to 9042. 


Responding to his invitation, Cyril Aris commented: “I'm happy that the Academy is including more and more diverse filmmakers from international backgrounds, as it strives to become a microcosm of world cinema, and not just US cinema. So this is great, and I feel very proud and humbled to be a part of it.” 


Cyril Aris is currently in development on his first feature, It’s a Sad and Beautiful World. Aris’s last fiction short film, The President’s Visit (2017), premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), won the US National Board of Review (NBR) grant, was shortlisted for a student BAFTA, won the Muhr Jury Prize at the Dubai IFF, and the oscar-qualifying Grand Jury Prize at the Nashville Film Festival. It played in over 50 film festivals worldwide. Previous credits include the short film Siham (2013), Jury Award at the Palm Springs ShortFest, LBC’s TV series Beirut, I Love You (2011, 2012), and Yahoo’s web-series Fasateen (2012), both gathered several million views.


Antoneta Alamat Kusijanovic is a writer-director born in Dubrovnik. Her short Into the Blue (2017) won awards at the 67th Berlin International Film Festival, the 63rd Oberhausen Film Festival, and the 23rd Sarajevo Film Festival, and was nominated for a Student Academy Award. At the Résidence du Festival de Cannes, Cinéfondation she is developing her first feature film. Antoneta holds an MFA in directing from Columbia University in New York.


Lauren Wolkstein is a NYC-based filmmaker originally from Baltimore, Maryland. In 2017, her debut feature The Strange Ones, starring James Freedson-Jackson and Alex Pettyfer, premiered at SXSW to critical acclaim. She co-directed the film with Christopher Radcliff, based on their Sundance short of the same name. Lauren’s previous shorts, including Social Butterfly (Sundance ’13) and Cigarette Candy (SXSW ’10 Grand Jury Prize), have played festivals around the world. She most recently directed an episode of Queen Sugar for the show’s third season. In 2013, Filmmaker Magazine listed her as one of the ‘25 New Faces of Independent Film’. Wolkstein was a 2017-2018 Women at Sundance Fellow through the Sundance Institute, and she was a MacDowell Colony Fellow for Summer 2018. She received her MFA in film directing from Columbia University and is an assistant professor of Film and Media Arts at Temple University. 


Katherine Dieckmann’s most recent feature film, Strange Weather, starring Holly Hunter and Carrie Coon, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and opened theatrically in 2017. Known for her lyrical, character-driven work, Dieckmann’s previous features include A Good Baby (2000), which was developed at the Sundance Institute’s Screenwriting and Directing labs, Diggers (2006) and Motherhood (2009). She was the originating director on Nickelodeon’s groundbreaking live action children’s series, The Adventures of Pete & Pete, and directed music videos for bands including R.E.M., Wilco, Aimee Mann, Everything but the Girl, Throwing Muses, and Vic Chesnutt.


According to the Academy, “members are world leaders in the arts and sciences, business, philanthropy, and public affairs. They are based across the United States and around the world. These elected members join with other experts to explore challenges facing society, identify solutions, and promote nonpartisan recommendations that advance the public good.”