A Chapman University student has won his second Student Academy Award in three years, a first-ever feat in the 45 years of the ceremonies that in the past honored the young Spike Lee, Trey Parker and Robert Zemeckis, among many others.
At the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills on Oct. 11, Brian Robau will receive either a gold, silver or bronze medal for Esta Es Tu Cuba (This Is Your Cuba), a narrative short that is set in Cuba in the 1960s.
The film’s main character is a 10-year-old boy whose life spirals out of control as his beloved Cuba goes through revolutionary changes. Robau, a Cuban-American born in Miami, Florida, partly bases the story on the experiences of his father, whose parents sent him to the United States for a better life and education in what was known as Operation Pedro Pan, which was the largest recorded exodus of unaccompanied minors in the Western Hemisphere.
The holder of an M.F.A. in directing from Chapman’s Dodge College of Media Arts, Robau won a Student Academy Awards silver medal in 2016 for It’s Just a Gun, a narrative short that followed the “life” of Smith & Wesson Model 640, from the assembly line, to a protective husband, then a pawn shop owner, then a desperate transient drug addict and, finally, a scrawny 9-year-old boy in South Central Los Angeles. (Robau should meet Aric Avelino, a Mater Dei High School grad whose directing debut American Gun, an Independent Spirit Award nominee, was a feature-length narrative film with a similar plot.)
The same year that It’s Just a Gun won the silver, Chapman’s Brenna Malloy took home the bronze in the same narrative category for Rocket.
Two USC students, Kelley Kali with Lalo’s House and Hua Tong with Spring Flower, are Robau’s competition in the Student Academy Awards Narrative (Domestic Film Schools) category this year. No other Chapman University students were nominated.
Robau, Kali and Tong are among 19 student winners a record number of Academy members singled out after 1,582 entries were received from 278 domestic and 122 international colleges and universities. With four students recognized, USC leads the pack.
All Student Academy Award-winning films are eligible to compete for 2018 Oscars in the Animated Short Film, Live Action Short Film or Documentary Short Subject category. Past winners have gone on to receive 59 Oscar nominations and have won or shared 11 awards.
This past year, two 2017 Student Academy Award winners received Oscar nominations in the Live Action Short Film category: North Caroline A& T State University’s Kevin Wilson, Jr., who also took the gold medal in the Domestic Narrative category for My Nephew Emmett, and Hamburg Media School’s Katja Benrath, who took the International Narrative gold for Watu Wote (All of Us).
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.