UC Berkeley alumna named a finalist for 2011 Student Academy Awards

Clare Major, a 2010 graduate of the documentary program at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, is one of 33 students from 22 U.S. colleges and universities selected this week as finalists in the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences’ 38th annual Student Academy Awards competition. Major was chosen for her documentary “Feast & Sacrifice,” which on the film’s website she describes as “a carefully observed portrait of a Senegalese family living on the ragged edges of globalization. Questions of work, gender and aspirations emerge as the family prepares for the biggest holiday of the year, the Islamic Feast of the Sacrifice.”

Clare Major

Clare Major with her best-documentary statuette from the 2011 College Television Awards

Major, now a Bay Area freelance filmmaker and videojournalist, was a Peace Corps volunteer in Senegal from 2004 to 2006. On the documentary’s website, she describes working with farmers and her host village women’s group to improve crop production and generate income. She writes that “Feast & Sacrifice,” her graduate thesis project at the journalism school, “is an attempt to convey some of the stories of individuals — men working abroad, women left at home, and children confronting the divergent paths before them” — whom she met while a volunteer in this village. She added that the 26-minute documentary was funded in part by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

In a brief email exchange with UC Berkeley’s Office of Public Affairs, a busy Major said her film “owes so much to the J-school documentary program — the collaboration with and support from (journalism professor) Jon Else and my nine classmates was invaluable.”

The Student Academy Awards have four film categories —  alternative, animation, documentary and narrative. Members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will view the finalists’ films at special screenings and then vote this month to select the winners, awarding gold, silver and bronze medal awards and cash grants of $5,000, $3,000 and $2,000, respectively. The winners will spend a week in Los Angeles and participate in an awards ceremony on Saturday, June 11, at the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater.

According to a news release from the Academy, the Student Academy Awards were established in 1972 to support and encourage excellence in filmmaking at the collegiate level. Past Student Academy Award winners have gone on to receive 43 Oscar nominations and have won or shared eight awards.

Read more news about the Student Academy Awards here.