Media studies major earns prestigious Capra Award

December 22, 2008

A Penn State College of Communications student has earned the Frank Capra Award from Film International magazine for his essay written as a COMM 452 International Cinema assignment earlier this year.

Ben Ogrodnik, a fifth-year senior majoring in media studies and English from Pittsburgh, wrote his essay, titled “Deep Cuts,” about Michael Haneke’s movie “Cache.”

The Frank Capra Award is given annually for “Excellence in Undergraduate Film Criticism” and is open to any undergraduate student enrolled at an institute of higher learning and working toward a bachelor’s degree in any field. Senior lecturer Kevin Hagopian alerted Ogrodnik to the contest and both Hagopian and lecturer Jon Cavallero suggested Ogrodnik submit his class paper.

As a result of winning the award, Ogrodnik received a $500 check and a one-year subscription to Film International. In addition, his essay will be published in the January 2009 edition of the magazine, which has an estimated readership of over 26,000.

“I decided to use my paper from COMM 452 because the class was about international cinema and post-colonialism. Because the magazine is called Film International, it made sense to work with an analysis of Haneke’s French language film,” said Ogrodnik.

According to Ogrodnik, Cache discusses the role of the media in a post-colonial era, how film and television fuel racial hostilities and the history of the French colonization. Ogrodnik’s essay was about how the movie critiqued the representation of racial identity in the media.

“I took a cultural studies perspective by not looking at the film itself but the implications of the film object on many different people or in terms of yourself and the way you relate to it,” said Ogrodnik.

Cavallero said Ogrodnik’s essay is more than just a film critique. “One of the things that makes it exceptional is the fact that it uses a film critique as a case study by looking at issues that go beyond the film,” Cavallero said. “I still haven’t seen the movie, and yet it’s important to note that I still took a great deal out of the essay.”

Film International received a total of 23 submissions from film students from prestigious universities all over the world, including Notre Dame; New York University; Nottingham Trent University; and the University of California at Berkeley.

Ogrodnik will graduate in May and is in the process of applying to graduate school in hopes of continuing film, media, literary and cultural studies.

“I expect him to be an important voice in our field in the not too distant future,” Cavallero said.

Filmmaker Frank Capra (1987-1991) was a three-time Academy Award winner as best director. Recognized as Hollywood’s top director of the 1930s, his award-winning movies include “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” in 1939, “You Can’t Take it With You” in 1937 and “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” in 1935. Capra earned a Golden Globe Award as best director for the timeless holiday classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” in 1947.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated March 19, 2009