Congratulations to DMD Motion Design & Animation professor Heejoo Kim, whose new film, Behind the Loom, is hitting the international film festival circuit! Behind the Loom is a short experimental animated documentary about the story of women during World War II. It unpacks the mystery of a family tragedy looking through a miniature handmade loom. It is the forgotten story of the brutalization of women and girls leading up to The Siege of Berlin in 1945. This film describes the impact of the war from a female perspective using personal testimonies and letters portraying the previously untold and true story of how Hanni, a mother, and her four daughters coped with the approaching force of the Red Army and the tribulation that ensued. Over 100,000 women and girls were raped during the Siege of Berlin, rarely is this fact acknowledged in history. The heartbreaking letters of Hanni’s husband Albert, provide clues as to why his family died and how he used the power of art to heal himself. Behind the Loom incorporates history, human rights, and feminism in an experimental documentary form.
The newly released film has hit the festival circuit and already has great success!
“Best Experimental” – Toronto International Women Film Festival, Toronto, Canada
“Honorable Mention” – Art Film Awards, Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic
“Best Documentary Short” – Port Blair International Film Festival, Port Blair, India
“Semi Finalist” – Luleå International Film Festival, Luleå, Sweden
“Best Film on Women” – Uruvatti International Film Festival, Tamil Nadu, India
ADDITIONAL FESTIVAL SCREENINGS:
Feel The Reel International Film Festival, Glasgow, United Kingdom
Cambodia Independent Film Festival, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Barcelona Indie Filmmakers Festival • BARCIFF, Barcelona, Spain
Amid waves of applause from game-loving superheroes, ninja turtles, and Jedi, three of UConn’s Digital Media & Design game designers took home awards at this year’s Connecticut Festival of Indie Games (CT FIG). The annual competition unfolded over three days (September 10-12, 2021) in partnership with ConnectiCon, a family-friendly gaming and anime convention that attracts more than 12,000 people to the Hartford Convention Center each year (ConnectiCon XVIII was the first large scale event held at the convention center since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic).
Students, faculty, and alumni from Digital Media & Design, the Neag School of Education, Greenhouse Studios, and the School of Engineering showcased a dozen games ranging from multiplayer, arcade-style space adventures to virtual reality experiences centered on concepts as varied as plein air painting, geometry, and engineering. During ConnectiCon, attendees had the opportunity to play each game, vote on their favorites, and provide feedback to the developers, each of whom (undergraduates, PhD candidates, and current faculty) is rocketing toward a bright future in the field of design.
“It is really wonderful to see our students shine. Winning 3 of the 7 digital awards in a state-wide competition is an incredible achievement,” said DMD Department Head, Heather Elliott-Famularo. “We are incredibly proud of the students, alumni, and faculty in our game design program.”
Currently in its eighth year of operation under the leadership of game designer Ken Thompson, the UConn Digital Media & Design game design program is ranked #1 in Connecticut and #19 on the East Coast according to Animation Career Review. It draws from multiple disciplines—including fine arts, psychology, and computer science—to engage students in hands-on projects and cultivate the skills needed to build a wide array of analog, video, and virtual reality gaming experiences. For aspiring Master of Fine Arts students, the program offers fully-funded, three-year MFA graduate assistantships in Digital Media & Design.
“It’s gratifying to showcase their diverse skill sets and hard work to the state of Connecticut. I’ve watched many of them collaborate and learn how to make games, and it’s an honor to have supported them along the way,” said Ken Thompson.
Unique to UConn is the highly-interconnected nature of its DMD game design and educational technology programs. The two coordinate to target practical skills for digital age collaboration, communication, and universal design, all of which are crucial in cutting-edge entertainment, educational, and interactive business spaces. This partnership allows UConn’s game designers to learn technical skills for their profession as well as concepts related to playful learning, human cognition, and accessibility with Dr. Stephen Slota, a DMD/Neag joint faculty appointment. Likewise, educational technology specialists enrolled in the one-year Master of Arts educational technology “Two Summers” program—whose motto is “Learn to Play & Play to Learn”—benefit from interdisciplinary courses that weave together best practices for interactive storytelling, instructional design, and classroom technology implementation.
These learning opportunities are often made possible through funded research positions in game development at Greenhouse Studios, housed in the UConn Homer Babbidge Library. Greenhouse forges diverse and democratic collaborations that build humanities scholarship in new formats to engage new audiences.
University of Connecticut’s School of Fine Arts professor Oscar Guerra was a winner at the 42nd Annual NewsOscar Guerra and Documentary Emmy Awards Tuesday night. He won Best Story in a Newsmagazine for his documentary film, Love, Life, & the Virus, which tells the story of a local immigrant Guatemalan family and the impact COVID-19 had on their lives.
The film aired on PBS Frontline, which also won two additional awards for its programming. Univision also aired the film in Spanish.
“It was already an honor the be nominated in two different categories, but the win feels amazing! Love, Life & the Virus is simultaneously a story of uncertainty and hope, darkness and light, but above all, what happens when people come together and support each other. Miracles do happen!” said Guerra. “And I am grateful to share this win with my family, my Frontline team, and UConn.”
“All of us at UConn are very proud of Oscar and his achievement,” said Dr. Carl Lejuez, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs. “This transformational film makes an important statement about an immigrant family’s experience in the Covid era, giving a voice to those who are marginalized in our society and disproportionately affected by the pandemic. It’s also a great example of why community engaged scholarship and creative work among our faculty is so important to our role as a research University for the State of Connecticut.”
In Love, Life, & the Virus, Guerra follows the family as mother, Zully, is admitted to the hospital due to her COVID-19 diagnosis and pregnancy with her second child. Her husband, Marvin, and son, Junior, also contract the virus. With the entire family ill and unable to care for the baby, they turn to Junior’s teacher who agrees to care for the newborn. Cameras follow the family through every step of their lives as the Stamford community rallies around the family until they eventually reunite.
“Oscar’s Emmy win is huge and comes at a wonderful moment for our young Digital Film/Video Production major. Just last year, we announced a new Human Rights Film and Digital Media Initiative, partnering with our Human Rights Institute at UConn, and this is evidence of the quality of our program and the kind of impact we intend to have on the medium – and in society,” said DMD Department Head, Heather Elliott-Famularo. “Oscar’s dedication to human rights filmmaking and our ongoing partnership with PBS Frontline are integral to this future.”
Guerra and his team are currently working on their next film which focuses on the aftermath of the Trump Administration’s Zero Tolerance immigration policy and family separation. This is a collaboration between UConn, Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, and PBS Frontline.