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News Release

Student Academy Award goes to aspiring SF State filmmaker

Graduating MFA student pushes the boundaries of the personal, the historical and the emotional with a film about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina


SAN FRANCISCO, May 23, 2008 -- When graduating MFA student Phoebe Tooke thinks of film, she thinks of emotion first. The New Orleans native received a Student Academy Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for "Circles of Confusion," an alternative film about the events surrounding Hurricane Katrina, told parallel to the experience of award-winning New Orleans filmmaker Stevenson Palfi, who committed suicide in the months after the hurricane.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognizes student films that represent excellence in education through form, content and style. The 35th Annual Student Academy Award is the only student film competition sponsored by the Academy and is the most direct means for students to demonstrate their filmmaking skills to industry professionals. Tooke is one of two recipients in the alternative film category, selected from more than 500 student applications. She will be among a total of 11 to receive the “Student Oscars” at a June 7 award ceremony at the Academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Los Angeles.

"Circles of Confusion" is told as a "meditative experimental documentary," according to Tooke. The film acts almost as a silent film, working to convey loss and frustration primarily through text, images and sounds.

"There's almost no talking," Tooke said. "What I was attempting to do was to express a feeling of what it was like to be back after Katrina aside from the history and facts."

Using both documented and re-created images and quotes from both Palfi's and Tooke's lives, the aspiring filmmaker intertwined her story with Palfi's.

"I read his story in the newspaper, and it really struck me. When I was there, I kind of understood his decision," Tooke said. "People felt abandoned, and I definitely understood that. Once I read his story, the rest fell into place. It's almost like the film he would have made."

Associate Professor of Cinema Jennifer Hammett believes that "Circles of Confusion" is exemplary of the spirit of the SF State Cinema Department. "It does defy categorization," Hammett said. "She works outside of the boundaries of traditional film practice. She conveys not only in the content, but in the form, feelings of confusion, feelings of loss and frustration."

Tooke, who received a "Distinguished Achievement" Award from the SF State Graduate Division, is the recipient of numerous other awards including SF State's John Gutman Award and two awards from the SF State Documentary Film Institute: Best Documentary Film and Best Essay on Documentary Film Subject. Having received a Personal Works Grant from the Film Arts Foundation in 2005, Tooke is filming "The Irrelevant Architect," a satirical commentary about the decline of architecture in the United States.

SF State’s College of Creative Arts offers among the most prestigious and diverse artistic higher education of any Northern California academic institution. An internationally acclaimed faculty teaches more than 3,000 undergraduate and graduate students from around the world in renowned programs in Art, Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts, Cinema, Design and Industry, Music, Dance and Theatre Arts. Each semester, the college presents more than 150 performances, exhibits, screenings, broadcasts and special events featuring students, faculty and celebrated professional artists. For more information, visit: http://creativearts.sfsu.edu


Student Writer Lisa Rau contributed to this press release.


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