Student Documentary Wins Film Festival Award

Author: Kate Cohorst

Student film Trunk still

Two recent graduates from the University of Notre Dame’s Department of Film, Television, and Theatre won a student award at the 2010 U.S. International Film and Video Festival.

Mark Lyons and Alex Wheeler, both from the Class of 2010, were honored for Trunk, their documentary short about Jeb Barsh, a Portland, Ore., zookeeper, and an Asian elephant named Rama.

According to Wheeler, the film illustrates “the steps Jeb has taken to improve the dynamic of the relationship between caretaker and animal.”

The students made the movie as part of an Advanced Documentary Production course taught by Ted Mandell, associate professional specialist in the Department of Film, Television, and Theatre.

“The film itself is as gentle and kind as Rama, the artistic Asian elephant it documents,” Mandell says. “Trunk quietly portrays the process of teaching Rama how to paint with his trunk—and gives new insight into the life of wild animals kept in captivity and how their caretakers work to give them meaningful lives.”

Trunk was partially funded through a Learning Beyond the Classroom grant from the College of Arts and Letters and was featured in the University’s 21st Annual Student Film Festival in January 2010.

“The fascinating part of Trunk, and other documentaries from the course that have gone on to win film festival awards, is that these are the very first documentaries produced by the students,” Mandell says. “It’s an enormous challenge to capture a subject on film, then craft a 10-15 minute narrative from literally hours and hours of footage. So to go out on that maiden voyage and do it in the short time they have during one semester, it’s really a testament to the dedication and skill of these student filmmakers.”

The U.S. International Film and Video Festival was founded
in 1967 and is one of the world’s leading international events devoted exclusively to recognition of outstanding business, television, documentary, educational, entertainment, industrial, and informational productions.

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