Art professor to screen film shortlisted for Oscar nomination

UC Santa Cruz associate professor of art Dee Hibbert-Jones at the The Hamptons Internation
UC Santa Cruz Associate Professor of Art Dee Hibbert-Jones at the The Hamptons International Film Festival, where "Last Day of Freedom" won the "Best Short Documentary Award"
Still from "Last  Day of Freedom"
Still from "Last  Day of Freedom"
Last Day of Freedom--an award-winning animated short by UC Santa Cruz associate professor of art Dee Hibbert-Jones and San Francisco artist Nomi Talisman--will be screened on the UC Santa Cruz campus at Kresge Town Hall on Thursday, December 3, beginning at 3:30 p.m.

The film tells the story of one man’s decision to stand by his brother, a veteran returning from war, as he faces criminal charges, racism, and ultimately the death penalty.

Following the screening, there will be a Q&A with the filmmakers and Estrus Tucker, a Vietnam-era veteran, ordained minister, facilitator on issues of race and reconciliation, and board member of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

Last Day of Freedom qualified for a possible Academy Award nomination earlier this year by winning the Jury Award for “Best Short” at the 18th annual Full Frame Documentary Film Festival.

“There were 74 qualifying films, but it was recently narrowed down to a list of 10,” noted Hibbert-Jones. “The next cut is on January 14, which is for the top 5 nominations for the awards,” she added.

The 88th annual Academy Awards will be held on Sunday, February 28, 2016, at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, and will be televised live in more than 225 countries and territories worldwide.

“We’re so touched by responses to the film and were frankly stunned,” said Hibbert-Jones. “When we were accepted to the Full Frame festival, we were so excited and we didn’t expect any more than that. Then we were given two awards there, and then a series of awards from other festivals since. It’s amazing.”

“We’re still stunned,” she added. “I actually found out that we were semi-finalists for the Oscars on the runway taking off for a festival in Leipzig, which made that even more surreal!” she added.

“We’ve been working on this project for several years, and for a while I felt we’d never get to a finished piece. When we started to hear responses that described the project as we’d hoped it would be seen, it was incredibly heartening. There are 32,000 drawings. It’s been a lot of work to get here--lots of discussions about the metaphors, the imagery, the sound etc.”

Hibbert-Jones said that she and Talisman are also developing a multi-platform documentary series—“an episode-based web doc”--told from the perspectives of families impacted by the death penalty and other forms of incarceration.

The site will include animated stories from families affected by the death penalty, as well as commentary from community members and national specialists talking about the implications of incarceration and capital punishment on families, specifically in the areas of  trauma, criminal justice, racial justice and safe communities.

“Our idea is to bring a new understanding of our criminal justice system to the public--created through animations, pod casts, etc--to raise awareness and promote a call to action regarding our broken criminal justice system,” said Hibbert-Jones.

The Dec. 3 event on campus was initiated by Porter College Provost Sean Keilen, who saw a few minutes of the film-in-progress last year.

“The screening and discussion will the first of several events about veterans that Porter will sponsor in 2015-16,” Keilen noted.  

“In winter quarter, there will be two new Porter courses, “War and the Arts,” and “Fighting for Words,” a writing workshop for student veterans. There will also be visits to campus by three well-known organizations that address the consequences of war through the arts: Operation Song, War Ink, and the Afghan Women’s Writing Project,” Keilen added.  

Admission to the Dec. 3 screening is free and open to the public. This event is sponsored by Porter College, the Art Department, SPARC, and the Institute for Humanities Research at UC Santa Cruz.