Accolades for Two Filmmakers from CalArts

Film/Video alumnus Mike Ott’s (MFA 05) feature LiTTLEROCK has earned the filmmaker a nomination for the Acura Someone to Watch Award at the upcoming Film Independent Spirit Awards.

Meanwhile, Eliza Hittman’s (MFA 10) CalArts thesis film, Forever’s Gonna Start Tonight, is having its world premiere at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival next month.

Launched in 1986 to recognize unique artistic visions, original and provocative subject matter, and economy of means in production, the Spirit Awards are held one day before the Oscars, on Saturday, Feb. 26, 2011, in Santa Monica. The Sundance Film Festival, which first began in 1978, opens Jan. 20 in Park City, UT, and runs through Jan. 30.

LiTTLEROCK is a charming coming-of-age drama told from the point of Atsuko, a Japanese student stranded in the forlorn hamlet of Littlerock in California’s Antelope Valley—what Ott calls “a perfect David Lynch setting.” Despite not speaking English, Atsuko grows intrigued by the local collection of misfits, moments of heartbreak, and general small-town restlessness. The San Francisco Examiner calls it a “tough, clever piece of filmmaking [that] says everything about how sometimes we can’t connect to each other even when we’re desperate to.”

Ott’s film has already collected numerous awards on the festival circuit, most recently the Audience Award at AFI Fest, where the work had its full Los Angeles premiere at Grauman’s Chinese Theater. Other accolades include the Audience Award at the Reykjavik International Film Festival, the Jury Special Mention Award at the Festival du Nouveau Cinema de Montreal, and the Best Feature Film Award at the San Diego Asian Film Festival. At the Gotham Independent Film Awards, LiTTLEROCK was nominated for “Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You.”

(Interestingly, fellow CalArts alum Tariq Tapa’s (MFA 08) feature Zero Bridge also earned that filmmaker the nomination for the Someone to Watch Award at the 2010 edition of the Spirit Awards, as well as the nom for “Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You” at the 2009 Gotham Awards.)

Hittman’s 16-minute short, Forever’s Gonna Start Tonight, is a set in one of the Russian enclaves of Brooklyn, NY. The protagonist is Sonya, a 17-year-old immigrant who lives in a claustrophobic apartment with her father and a menagerie of cats. Faced with eviction, “she ventures our for a night she won’t forget,” according to writer-director Hittman.The film is produced in Russian, with English subtitles.

Below are stills from Hittman’s Forever’s Gonna Start Tonight:

'Forever’s Gonna Start Tonight'

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