SFA 2023

29th Annual DGA Student Film Awards

December 14, 2023

The presentation ceremonies for the 29th Annual DGA Student Film Awards were held in the Guild’s New York Theater on December 12, and the DGA Los Angeles Theater on December 14. The awards were created 29 years ago by the DGA’s National Board to address the severe underrepresentation of directors of color and women in feature filmmaking by honoring, encouraging and bringing attention to exceptional diverse directors in film schools and universities across the country.

To date, the program has grown to encompass over 200 schools nationwide, including historically black colleges and universities, and is a hallmark of the DGA’s efforts to recognize the talents of emerging women and people of color, supporting their entrance into the film industry and eventually into the Guild.

New York Ceremony:

NY-SFAThe New York event on December 12 began with a greeting from DGA Assistant Secretary-Treasurer and Focus on Women Committee Co-Chair Joyce Thomas, who welcomed the attending DGA members, winning students and their guests to the Student Film Awards ceremony.

“Welcome to the 29th Annual DGA Student Film Awards: Eastern Region. It gives me great pleasure to be here with you to celebrate the DGA Eastern Student Film Award winners!” said Thomas.

She continued by acknowledging the fact that the Student Film Awards have recognized over 300 emerging filmmakers, including past recipients such as DGA members Channing Godfrey Peoples, Jon M. Chu, Nicole Kassell, Ryan Coogler and Patricia Riggen, Thomas explained how the competition includes five categories: African American, Asian American, Latino, Women, and Documentary directors, and how DGA member panels review the submissions and select the winning films and the Jury Awards recipients.

After a screening of clips from the jury award-winning short films, Focus on Women Committee Co-Chair and Alternate National Board member Annetta Marion presented the certificates of achievement to the winners: African American category jury award-recipient Anndi Jinelle Liggett of New York University for Jelly, Asian American category jury award-recipient Keith Leung New York University for I, Chinese, Latino category jury award-recipient Valery Garcia of Florida State University for Descension, Women’s category jury award-recipient Mary Louise Renegar of University of North Carolina School of the Arts for The Chaperone.

Director Jono Oliver presented the award to the East Region African American category-winner, Danielle Grace Nebeliuk of Savannah College of Art and Design for The Last Black Dinosaur and to the East Region  Asian American category-winner, Tianyu Du of Boston University for Bob [which was accepted on Du’s behalf by the film’s Producer Jessica Chen]. Director Alison Klayman presented the award to the East Region Documentary category-winner, Jiale Hu of New York University for No Memories Lost. Director Lucy Liu presented the award to the East Region Latino category-winner, Monica Matute of Savannah College of Art and Design for Working from Home and to the East Region Women’s category-winner, Leah Chen Baker of New York University for Belated.

Following the screenings of the winning short films, DGA Assistant Executive Director Mary Hatch spoke about the Guild’s ongoing fight for diversity and inclusion and thanked everyone for attending.

Los Angeles Ceremony:

29th Annual DGA Student Film Awards in Los AngelesThe Los Angeles event on December 14 began with a welcome from DGA Student Film Awards Committee Chair Gil Cates, Jr., who said, “We have seen the impact of storytelling on our society when underrepresented voices are given space to tell stories; today we celebrate your unique perspectives and how they enhance our view and understanding of the world around us.”

Before welcoming Master of Ceremonies LeVar Burton to the stage, Cates acknowledged the work of dedicated Student Film Awards Committee members: Abdul Malik Abbott, Henry Chan, A.P. Gonzalez, and Betty Petitt, adding, “We are grateful for your invaluable leadership and commitment to DGA Student Film Awards.”

Addressing the West Region Jury Award receivers, Burton said, “These five filmmakers stood out as exceptional to our members and we are thrilled to recognize them tonight.”

Following a screening of clips from their films, Burton handed out the certificates to West Region Jury Award recipients: Yutong Cao of Loyola Marymount University in the Asian American category for The Rowboat; Matthew Cheung of Loyola Marymount University in the Documentary category for A Balancing Act; James Valdez of New York Film Academy in the Latino category for Canta Santiago; Anna Lo Westlin of American Film Institute in the Women’s category for Bienvenido Juanito; and presented in memory of Student Film Awards Committee Member Reginald D. Brown, Ifeanyi Ezieme of USC in the African American category for Ebezina.

After screenings of each of the winning short films, the awards were presented to the Directors of the category winners, each of whom were able to speak briefly about the making of their projects. Director Anna Maria Horsford presented the award to the West Region African American category-winner, Kennedy Love-Green of UCLA for Portrait. Director Lily Mariye presented the award to the West Region Asian American category-winner, Naomi Christie of American Film Institute for Object of Desire. Director SJ Main Muñoz presented the award to the West Region Latino category-winner, Giselle Bonilla of American Film Institute for The Bullfighter. Director Bethany Rooney presented the award to the West Region Women’s category-winner, Jacqueline Elyse Rosenthal of USC for Backlog.  Director Miranda Yousef presented the award to the West Region Documentary category-winner, Majiye Uchibeke of USC for I Am More Dangerous Dead.

Burton closed out the ceremony by again congratulating all the winners and jury award recipients and thanking all the presenters for taking the time to be part of the event.

About the Student Film Awards

The DGA Student Film Awards have highlighted dozens of African American, Asian American, Latino and Women filmmakers over the years. A number of past winners have gone on to enjoy successful directing careers, including:

  • Steven Caple Jr. (Creed II; Grown-ish; Rapture; The Land)
  • Jon M. Chu (In the Heights; Home Before Dark; Crazy Rich Asians; Now You See Me 2)
  • Ryan Coogler (Black Panther; Creed; Fruitvale Station)
  • Rashaad Ernesto Green (Premature; The Chi; Looking for Alaska; Luke Cage)
  • Nicole Kassell (Watchmen; Castlerock; Westworld; The Americans)
  • Patricia Riggen (Dopesick; Surveillance; Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan; Miracles From Heaven)
  • Sylvain White (The Rookie; Fargo; The Umbrella Academy; Amazing Stories)

Eligible films were made in the 2022/2023 school year (September 2022 through August 2023), and produced as a student project under the supervision of a faculty member – with students holding every major crew position. Dramas, comedies and documentaries are all eligible – animated and experimental films are not eligible. Applicants must be enrolled in, or be a recent (one-year) graduate from, an accredited post-secondary institution located in the United States.


photos by Marcie Revens (New York) and Elisa Haber (Los Angeles)

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