- Associated Press - Sunday, June 12, 2011

BEVERLY HILLS, CALIF. (AP) - There was a decidedly international flavor to Saturday night’s Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ 38th Annual Student Academy Awards, with top medalists hailing from homelands spanning the globe _ from Norway to South Korea to Israel to Brazil.

“For the first time Foreign Film is not just an honorary category, as it has been for the past 31 years,” said event co-presenter, “Alias” actress Jennifer Garner. “The Student Award executive committee felt with all the quality work they were seeing each year from the schools outside America, it was about time to make to make Foreign Film a regular category.”

Garner noted that foreign students submitted 52 films from 32 different countries this year, and the winner of the new foreign prize was Norway’s Hallvar Witzo, director of “Tuba Atlantic.”

Even one of the top Hollywood-produced winners, narrative-category gold medalist “Thief,” had a foreign flair. It spun around a young Saddam Hussein, was set in Iraq and in Iraqi-Arabic with subtitles.

“This is just an incredible ride, a thrill ride,” “Thief” director Julian Higgins said in a pre-ceremony interview Saturday afternoon. Higgins, a graduate of the American Film Institute, added, “We do have a mantel, for once in my apartment. So, that might be the choice. But, you’ll never know. I mean, I hear these are people that win the Oscars and they put it in their closet or in their office or something, I’ve never thought about it before. So, I guess I should start thinking.”

Other gold medal winners included New York director Zach Hyer’s “Correspondence” in the animation category and Chicago-based Wonjung Bae’s “Vera Klement: Blunt Edge” in the documentary category.

While all winners knew they would each receive an award, their placement __ Gold, Silver or Bronze __ was not revealed until the ceremony. Gold medalists received cash grants of $5,000. Silver medalists received $3,000. And Bronze medalists received $2,000.

The Academy established the Student Academy Awards in 1972 to support and encourage excellence in filmmaking at the collegiate level. Past Student Academy Award winners have gone on to receive 43 Oscar nominations and have won or shared eight awards.

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