NEW YORK, November 13, 2006 -- “Silences,” City College graduate Octavio Warnock-Graham’s poignant M.F.A. thesis film about the search for his African-American father, won the Outstanding Documentary Award at the prestigious 2006 Angelus Student Film Festival in Los Angeles.
The film, which also won for Best Documentary in Cityvisions 2006, CCNY’s annual festival for graduate students in media arts production, was selected from a field of more than 500 submissions from 28 countries. It was the only winning entry from the Tri-state area.
Sponsored by Maryknoll Productions, the Angelus award comes with a $3,000 cash prize. It was presented in late October.
“It’s a huge honor,” said Mr. Warnock-Graham, who graduated from CCNY last spring with an M.F.A in Documentary Writing and Producing. “You operate in a vacuum and have no sense how it is going to resonate to a large audience and then you have a prestigious festival like Angelus grant you an award – it is a very gratifying feeling.”
Professor David Davidson, Director of the M.F.A. in Media Arts Production program and one of Mr. Warnock-Graham’s mentors, called “Silences” an amazing piece. “It’s risky for a filmmaker to put his or her own struggle at the center of a documentary, without appearing to be self-absorbed. “Silences” tells the story of Octavio’s quest to get answers to some fundamental questions about his own identity without falling into that trap. It’s a good story, well told.”
“Silences,” which runs 20 minutes and was shot in Ohio and San Francisco, follows the filmmaker’s journey to understand his mother’s refusal to discuss the circumstances of his birth. He is the product of an interracial relationship that his family had sought to conceal. With a silent mother, Mr. Warnock-Graham travels to San Francisco with only a name and a phone number to find that one person who can complete his search for answers: his biological father.
The year-long project was, as expected, emotionally challenging for Mr. Warnock-Graham, who nearly abandoned it before its climactic conclusion in San Francisco, where he traced his father.
“Interviewing my family was not that difficult – it was a subject everyone was ready to talk about and I just gave them an opportunity to do that,” explained the Manhattan resident.
“But meeting my biological dad was very scary. There was this really strong risk of rejection and at one point, while I was in San Francisco, I almost gave up the search because I was so scared of being rejected.”
Mr. Warnock-Graham credits the documentary’s director of photography, Carmen Vidal Balanzat, herself an award-winning filmmaker, for convincing him to make that all important call to his father.
“She was very influential in shaping the film,” he said of Ms. Balanzat, a Cinematography major in the M.F.A. in Media Arts Production program at CCNY who won a silver medal at the Student Academy Awards last Spring.
He also thanked his mentors, Professor Davidson and Professor Andrea Weiss, a noted documentary filmmaker and non-fiction author on whose forthcoming project, “U.N. Fever,” he worked on as a cinematographer.
Mr. Warnock-Graham’s other feature credit, “Aaron Loves Kendra,” (directed by Jeff Oppenheim) is in post-production.
The native Ohioan earned a BA, with a concentration in drama studies, from SUNY Purchase in 1993 and spent 10 years working as a lighting technician/gaffer in theater and television before enrolling at CCNY, where he carried a 3.85 G.P.A. and received grants from the National Board of Review and the Nyman Family Award.
About The Angelus Student Film Festival
The Angelus Student Film Festival cultivates and honors future filmmakers as they explore and create works that respect the dignity of the human person. Past winners include Sundance winners Patricia Cardoso (“Real Women Have Curves”) and Tony Bui (“Three Seasons” and “Green Dragon”). Other Angelus winners include directors Greg Marcks (“11:14” starring Hilary Swank), Jessica Sharzer (“Speak” on Showtime) and Sabrina Dhawan (screenwriter “Monsoon Wedding”).
Family Theater Productions created the Angelus Awards in 1996 to showcase and award emerging filmmakers and encourage them to continue creating visionary projects that honor the fundamental dignity of the human person.
About The City College of New York
For over 159 years, The City College of New York has provided low-cost, high-quality education for New Yorkers in a wide variety of disciplines. Over 13,000 students pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the School of Architecture, the School of Education, the Grove School of Engineering, the Center for Worker Education and the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education.