by Jill Thomas
By the end of this week, UCCS film student Sarah Lotfi will know whether or not she'll need to write an Oscar speech. Well, Student Oscar speech, that is.
Lotfi's film The Last Bogatyr was selected recently in a regional competition to advance as one of nine finalists in the running for a national Student Academy Award for Best Narrative Film. Lotfi expects to hear on Thursday whether she'll be invited to California for the Academy's June 12 ceremony to receive a trophy and cash prize along with the career-launching honor.
Though only 17 minutes in length and made with a budget of less than $1,500, her film — set in a Russian village during World War II — has the feel of a much grander epic. Its sweeping themes of love, friendship, faith and betrayal are played out in scenes ranging from explosion-riddled battlefields to a quiet wedding inside a lavishly ornamental Russian Orthodox Church. The lead performances by local actors Benjamin Bonenfant, Geoffrey Dean and Megan LeFurge are enacted without dialogue, but they are all the more arresting for their silence, and combine with the picture's symbol-rich visuals and haunting soundtrack of Russian chants and melodies for maximum impact.
If Lotfi receives a gold, silver or bronze award, she hopes to use a portion of her winnings to make and distribute DVDs of The Last Bogatyr along with some of her other films.
And though the Oscars are known for their speeches, Lotfi says she'll likely stick with less-daunting, spontaneous thank-yous if she wins. Still, that doesn't mean she's unprepared: "I have a dress and everything ready," she says, laughing, "if I get to go."