The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences honored the recipients of its 44th Student Academy Awards in a ceremony at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills Thursday night.

Actress and director Amber Tamblyn, actor and director Andy Serkis, animator and director Jennifer Yuh Nelson, and producer DeVon Franklin presented gold, silver, and bronze medals to winners from schools around the world. “I’m excited to celebrate the great young talent that’s burgeoning onto our screens,” said Serkis. Nelson echoed that sentiment: “It’s inspiring to see students who are so talented and to recognize them for their abilities now.”

“I love to see… when they play the clips and everyone leans forward to see what [the students have] worked on. That energy is euphoric,” Nelson added. Regarding the tense climate in Hollywood right now, she said, “Something has always been happening, but the thing that’s wonderful about what we do is we can focus on the craft and make something that will bring people together in beauty and story and character. It’s a huge bonding experience. In times like these, we need that more.”

Serkis offered a bit of wisdom to aspiring filmmakers. “It’s important to have stamina,” he said. “It takes such passion in the subject matter, when you have that first dream of making something, to be able to hold onto that and nurture it… That initial spark of an idea is the most delicious time because you’re so fired up by it. But it’s about the long haul.” He went on to emphasize the necessity of honorable intentions. “You can become corrupted by money and fame, but most people who really are artists are able to hold onto the desire to do what they want to do because they want to change society. I’ve always been certain about what I want to do… and that’s to have some impact, to educate and influence people’s points of view. First and foremost, get them to emotionally engage.”

There was no shortage of emotional engagement during the awards ceremony. Between speeches by winners from Chenglin Xie (Gold medal: International Animation, “Life Smartphone”) to Kevin Wilson, Jr. (Gold medal: Narrative, “My Nephew Emmett”), the students’ work left the audience feeling love, heartbreak, suffering, celebration, and all.

“I want to continue with animation, but I’m not limiting myself to that,” Xie said. “I want to use film as a language to express myself.”


Gold: “Opera of Cruelty,” Max R. A. Fedore, New York University


Gold: “In a Heartbeat,” Beth David and Esteban Bravo, Ringling College of Art and Design
Silver: “Cradle,” Devon Manney, University of Southern California
Bronze: “E-delivery,” Young Gul Cho, School of Visual Arts


Gold: “Life Smartphone,” Chenglin Xie, China Central Academy of Fine Arts (China)


Gold: “Hale,” Brad Bailey, University of California, Berkeley
Silver: “On Pointe,” Priscilla Thompson and Joy Jihyun Jeong, Columbia University
Bronze: “One Way Home,” Qingzi Fan, New York University


Gold: “Galamsey,” Johannes Preuss, Filmakademie Baden-Wurttemberg (Germany)


Gold: “My Nephew Emmett,” Kevin Wilson, Jr., New York University
Silver: “Mammoth,” Ariel Heller, University of Southern California
Bronze: “Who’s Who in Mycology,” Marie Dvorakova, New York University


Gold: “Watu Wote,” Katja Benrath, Hamburg Media School (Germany)
Silver: “Facing Mecca,” Jan-Eric Mack, Zurich University of the Arts (Switzerland)
Bronze: “When Grey is a Colour,” Marit Weerheijm, Netherlands Film Academy (Netherlands)