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UC grad writes, directs best 'cutting edge,' 'religious' film

by Deborah Rieselman

Creative-writing alumnus Matt Dunnerstick, A&S '01, received eight film-festival awards for writing and directing his first independent feature film, "The Custom Mary." That seems to be enough acclaim that the movie will soon be released internationally.

In January 2013, the new film writer and director made a particularly impressive showing at the San Diego Black Film Festival (SDBFF), one of the country's largest black film festivals, with a win for Best Cutting Edge Film and Best Religious Film. The two genres seem a little odd for a single picture until one reads the movie synopsis:

"When a young Latina in East Los Angeles meets an African-American lowrider mechanic and aficionado, she struggles to reconcile her faith and blossoming love affair while becoming dangerously involved in a religious attempt to clone Jesus."

Dunnerstick describes the picture as "not really religious yet deals with religion, set in the parts of L.A. most films don't get to show, steeped with logic and humor and magic and science and sheep and DNA."

The film premiered at the HBO New York International Latino Film Festival in 2011, but made great strides in the 2012-13 film-festival circuit. It is now available for viewing through Amazon.com.

In the end, Dunnerstick says, "I think it's been worth the ride."

Film Festival Awards won

  • Best Feature, International Black Film Festival of Nashville, December 2012
  • Best Cutting Edge Film, SDBFF, January 2013
  • Best Religious Film, SDBFF, January 2013
  • The Chris Statuette, Columbus International Film + Video Festival; the longest-running film festival in the U.S.; Columbus, Ohio; November 2012
  • Award of Excellence, Canada International Film Festival, April 2012
  • Best Drama Feature, The Indie Gathering, Cleveland, August 2012
  • Bronze Palm Award, Mexico International Film Festival, San Diego, June 2012
  • Special Mention, San Francisco Black Film Festival, January 2013

Also nominated for the following:

  • Best Film, SDBFF, January 2013
  • Best Dramatic Feature, SDBFF, January 2013
  • Best Director, SDBFF, January 2013
  • Best Cinematography, Oaxaca Film Fest, Mexico, November 2012

LINK: Watch trailer.