Crystal Powell, a documentary alumna with the Reynolds School of Journalism, recently won Nevada Student Filmmaker of the Year at the Nevada Women's Film Festival in Las Vegas Sunday, March 26.
Powell's film, "Life's Just Hard," follows two child abuse survivors as they struggle to overcome their pasts, and learning there's life after violence. The NWFF showcases women directors and production crews as well as films with complex female characters and "no tired stereotypes."
Powell was one of the first students to take Associate Professor Kari Barber's documentary class in 2015. Barber teaches the class once a year, usually in the fall. Next year however, the class will be in the spring. Barber attributed Powell's success to the sincerity and heart in which Powell approached the film, not only as a filmmaker, but as a child abuse survivor herself.
"She put a lot of work and a lot of heart into that film; it was nice to see it appreciated and recognized," Barber said.
Barber says the idea came after she attended the University Film Video Association Conference, where filmmakers, professors and researchers come together to celebrate and encourage diverse filmmaking. Barber showed a one-minute clip of Powell's documentary, and was approached by a NWFF organizer who wanted Powell to submit her work to the festival.
"I think for some people, this film really touches home based on their own different kinds of experiences, and it's something that's not talked about very much," Barber said. "So for somebody to talk openly about it in the way she does in this project I think really touches people. I think the audience was very moved, and I think winning the award was reflective of that."
Powell's documentary was among 34 films, including Barber's own film Struggle and Hope, about all black towns throughout America that evolved after the Civil War.
Barber said this win will hopefully open more doors to student filmmakers in the future.
"This is the first time we've done this, which is nice, especially since she won the award, maybe we'll build a bridge for student films to be chosen in the future," Barber said.
Going forward, Barber hopes to continue submitting student work to festivals and creating relationships that will benefit student filmmakers.