Award-winning playwright and filmmaker Luis Valdez will help shine a spotlight on Hollywood’s next generation of filmmakers at California State University, Northridge’s 22nd annual “Senior Film Showcase” at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences on Wednesday, May 2.
The showcase, which culminates years of study for the university’s senior-level film students, is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. and is free and open to the public. The screenings will take place in the Leonard H. Goldenson Theatre of the academy at 5220 Lankershim Blvd. in North Hollywood.
The evening also will pay tribute to Valdez, who is considered the father of Chicano theater and filmmaking in the United States, and actress Lillian Lehman, whose 40-year career has spanned film, television and stage as well as the halls of Cal State Northridge where she is a tenured theater professor.
Cinema and television arts professor Nate Thomas, head of CSUN’s film production option, said the films in the showcase represented the best of Cal State Northridge’s program.
“The films demonstrate the professional and creative skills of our students, many of whom come from working-class backgrounds, and their ability to tell diverse stories,” he said. “These filmmakers have the talent and knowledge to compete in the entertainment industry.”
The following four student films are featured in the showcase:
• “No Hay Nada Mas,” written and directed by Giovanni Solis, is the story of a father and his two children who are forced to live in a motel after losing their house to foreclosure.
• “Without a Shadow,” written and directed by Alex Maleski, is inspired by a Native American folktale about a farmer who mistakenly shoots down the moon with a mystical gun.
• “Not at Home,” written and directed by Arielle Kilker, explores what happens on a long RV road trip when Gene picks up a young hitchhiker and they discover what is missing in each of their lives.
• “Pareto Principle,” written and directed by Benny Wolde-Yohannes, is the tale of two young men who find a duffel bag full of money.
Thomas noted that students featured in previous showcases have gone on to receive CSU Media Arts Awards, American Society of Cinematographers Heritage Student Awards, first-place honors from the Kodak Film School Competition and top honors from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Foundation and the Cannes Film Festival.
“We have a very talented group of students and I have no doubt they will go on and make their marks in Hollywood,” he said.
Valdez and Lehman will be receiving the Department of Cinema and Television Arts’ Cinematheque Award for their contributions to the entertainment industry as well as serving as role models for future generations.
Valdez founded the internationally recognized and Obie Award-winning theater company El Teatro Campesino, which inspired a national Chicano theater movement and propelled Valdez to a larger stage. He wrote and directed “Zoot Suit,” a play about the murder trial of a group of young Mexican-Americans, that sparked the infamous Zoot Suit riots of 1943. The show made it to Broadway in 1979, and Valdez became the first Chicano director to have a play presented in that acclaimed venue.
Valdez directed the film version of “Zoot Suit” for Universal Pictures, starring Edward James Olmos, who also appeared in the stage production, and Tyne Daly. It was the first Chicano major feature film and was nominated for a 1982 Golden Globe. Valdez went on to direct such films and television shows as “La Bamba,” which also received a Golden Globe nomination; “Cisco Kid,” starring Jimmy Smits and Cheech Marin; and “Corridos: Tales of Passion and Revolution,” starring Linda Ronstadt.
Valdez has won numerous awards and honors for his theater, film and television work, including the George Peabody Award for excellence in television, the Presidential Medal of the Arts, the Governor’s Award from the California Arts Council and Mexico’s prestigious Aguila Azteca Award, which is given to individuals whose work promotes cultural excellence and exchange between the United States and Mexico.
Lehman is a critically acclaimed actress who has appeared on stage, screen and film. She has appeared on such television shows as “What’s Happening Now?” “21 Jump Street,” “General Hospital,” “L.A. Law,” “Magnum P.I.,” and “Men of a Certain Age.” She has also appeared in such films at “Defending Your Life,” with Albert Brooks and Meryl Streep; “Body of Evidence,” with Madonna, Willem Dafoe and Joe Mantegna; and “Evan Almighty,” with Steve Carell and Morgan Freeman. Lehman’s role in “Driving While Black in Beverly Hills” at Los Angeles’ Matrix Theatre earned her rave reviews and several best actress nominations.
Lehman has spent more than 25 years as a tenured professor on Cal State Northridge’s Department of Theatre teaching acting, improv and acting on camera, a class she created.
A reception with live music from The Tim Russ Band will be held in the academy lobby following the screenings.
The evening is sponsored by the CSUN Associated Students Instructionally Related Activities Fund and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.