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Alumna Wins Directors Guild Diverse Student Film Award

A scene from Jonah Stands Up, Hannah Engelson's documentary, which won a Jury Award from the Directors Guild of America. 

Emerson College alumna Hannah Engelson MFA '15 won a Directors Guild of America (DGA) Student Film Award for diverse directors for her documentary, Jonah Stands Up, about artist, comedian, and disability activist Jonah Bascle.  

The 22nd annual awards honor African American, Asian American, Latino/a, and women student filmmakers. Engelson took the East Region Jury Award for Best Women Student Filmmaker. 

Jonah Stands Up, which Engelson made for MFA thesis at Emerson, blends traditional documentary filmmaking with stop-motion animation. Engelson met Bascle a number of years ago in New Orleans through a film Meetup group. Bascle, who had muscular dystrophy and cardiomyopathy, died in December 2014.

“Sometimes it was the worst thing,” Engelson said in March of making a film about someone with a life-threatening illness whom she cared about, “because, yeah, it’s really hard to have to make a film in that situation. And sometimes it was the best possible thing to do at the time, because at least you can do something productive and meaningful.”

Hannah Engelson MFA '15, second from right, attends the Emerson Los Angeles Film and Media Festival in October, along with, left to right, Emily Pietro '16, Sean Temple '16, and Molly Benjaminson '16. File photo/Daryl Paranada

Jonah Stands Up took home two prizes from the Emerson Film Festival in Boston in March: the Barbara Rutberg Award for Best Documentary, and the Take Action Hollywood Award for Social Justice Filmmaking prize sponsored by TV host and actress Maria Menounos '00. In April, it was screened at the Visual and Media Arts Department's “It's All True” Documentary Showcase in Boston.  

Engelson also screened a short at the Emerson Los Angeles Film and Media Festival in October. 

The DGA awards, which come with prizes of $2,500, are “designed to honor, encourage, and bring attention to outstanding minority and women film students in film schools and other select universities.”

The West Coast ceremony was held in Los Angeles on November 10. The East Coast ceremony will be held in New York on December 15. 

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