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Student filmmaker wins prestigious awards

November 10, 2004

Photo of Victoria GamburgVictoria Gamburg's hard work and perseverance to make thought-provoking films is paying off. The candidate for a master of fine arts degree in cinema recently won two Angelus Awards and a Princess Grace Award -- among the highest honors for student filmmakers in the country.

The $10,000 Patrick Peyton Excellence in Filmmaking Award is the grand prize of the Angelus Awards, created and conducted by Family Theater Productions in Hollywood. Gamburg also won a $1,500 Angelus Award for screenwriting. She is the first SFSU student to win an Angelus Award.

The Princess Grace Award is a grant given to dance, theater and film students by the Princess Grace Foundation-USA. Gamburg is the 11th SFSU student to win a Princess Grace award since 1989.

The budding filmmaker is completing her thesis project, the 21-minute "Twilight." Shot on 16-mm film, it was made during three trips to St. Petersburg, Russia, at the height of White Nights. Against the backdrop of perpetual northern twilight, the film's lead character searches for her missing daughter. The circumstances of the girl's disappearance are a mystery; one day she does not come home from school. After three years of fruitless searching, during which she must deal with an uncaring post-Soviet bureaucracy, the mother makes a potentially life-altering decision.

Photo of Victoria Gamburg on location during the filming of "Twilight""Twilight" explores issues of spirituality and loss, Gamburg said.

"The film taps into everyday human anxieties," she said. "How do we understand our place in the world without a firm belief system? How do we find personal meaning and happiness in a world perpetually ravaged by poverty and war?"

Cinema Assistant Professor Jennifer Hammett, one of Gamburg's instructors, said she is "a filmmaker of great integrity and professionalism" with a limitless future.

"Victoria has made a stunningly beautiful film that treats very basic human emotions -- the loss of a child, the search for redemption -- in subtle and moving ways," Hammett said. "The film's success in bringing the spectator into the emotional world of the female protagonist and its refusal to supply simple solutions to the dilemmas it presents are simply extraordinary for a student film."

Gamburg was born in Russia and moved to the United States at age 4. She became interested in making films during her adolescence, while watching classic foreign films in her living room in Atlanta. Her parents were both theater directors in Russia, so creating a visual narrative came naturally to her.

"Twilight" is Gamburg's second film shot in Russia. Her first film was shot while attending Smith College.

The experiences Gamburg had in Russia have had a strong influence on her filmmaking. One of three students nationwide to win a 2000 Jacob K. Javits Fellowship in Cinema from the U.S. Department of Education, she describes herself as adventurous and persistent.

Founded amid the political activism and artistic experimentation of the 1960s, the SFSU Cinema Department has educated generations of filmmakers including Academy Award winners Steven Zaillian (Best Screenplay, "Schindler's List," 1994), Christopher Boyes (Best Sound, "Titanic," 1998, "Pearl Harbor," 2001, "Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King," 2004) and Steve Okazaki (Best Short Documentary, "Days of Waiting," 1991). In 2000, Entertainment Weekly named the department one of the nation's top film schools.

-- Matt Itelson


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Last modified November 10, 2004 by University Communications