Student Oscars: Two nominations, one win for recent journalism school grads

Two students at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism were nominated for 2017 Student Academy Awards for documentary films they produced, one on the subject of disability rights leader Hale Zukas and the other on a rare medical condition that has kept a man living in darkness for 10 years.

The film Hale earned Brad Bailey, who graduated in May, an Oscar on Sunday night. He will receive the award in ceremonies in Beverly Hills on Oct. 12.

The academy selected 17 winners from 1,587 entries from 267 domestic and 89 international colleges and universities.

Bailey said the subject of his film, 73-year-old Hale Zukas of Berkeley, is every bit the disability rights pioneer as others who are better known in the field, such as Ed Roberts and Judy Heumann. The efforts of Zukas, he said, can be seen today in everything from curb cuts to wheelchair ramps and how buildings are constructed. Zukas has devoted his life to helping others, said Bailey.

Like Hale, Bailey’s father is disabled, after sustaining lasting injuries in a car crash when Bailey was 15. 

Edward Wasserman, dean of the Graduate School of Journalism, commended Bailey for highlighting the story of Zukas, who, despite frequent visits to campus over the years, has remained largely unknown.

“Brad unwrapped Zukas’ story and gave us an intimate and beautifully filmed look at how he navigates the world independently, illuminating a powerful story that has been around us, largely unnoticed,” said Wasserman.

Filmmaker Jason Hanasik was nominated for his thesis film,How To Make A Pearl, which tells the story of John Kapellas, who exists in literal darkness and isolation due to a condition known as photosensitivity. The documentary uses creative filmmaking and Kapellas’ home videos to present his history.

Hanasik is an artist and curator as well as a documentary filmmaker. His work focuses primarily on trauma, reintegration, addiction, the military experience and human rights. 

He will be partnering with local nonprofit mental health agencies and private therapists to offer free pop up screenings of the film in community centers, theaters and gymnasiums.

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