2022 Columbia Journalism Post-Grad Reporting Fellow Jean Chapiro has won a Student Academy Award in the Documentary category for her Center-supported film, Hasta Encontrarlos (Till We Find Them), about a Mexican community's search to find their missing loved ones.
Chapiro's project was supported through the Pulitzer Center's Reporting Fellow program for student journalists. Another Reporting Fellows project, Seasons, won the Bronze Student Academy Award in last year's awards.
“I feel extremely excited and happy about winning a Student Academy Award,” Chapiro said. “It still feels a little bit surreal. I also feel very grateful for the platform that this award will give to the documentary, the stories of the families in the collective, and the missing people crisis in Mexico and around the world.”
The Student Academy Awards were established in 1972 to “provide a platform for emerging global talent by creating opportunities within the industry to showcase their work,” according to its website. “The 2022 winners join the ranks of such past Student Academy Award winners as Patricia Cardoso, Pete Docter, Spike Lee, Patricia Riggen, and Robert Zemeckis.”
Chapiro's film tells the story of Araceli Salcedo, who decided to start a community collective shortly after her daughter, Rubi, went missing in Orizaba, Veracruz, Mexico. Today the group has over 350 members, and 90% of them are mothers. Together, these women have successfully found 15 people alive, returned 71 bodies, and spotted 53 clandestine graves. Yet most of them have not found their own children. One of the coping and healing mechanisms that Salcedo created for the mothers in her collective are the muñecos sanadores or “healing dolls.” The dolls represent missing children and serve as a tool to help the mothers navigate the void that their loved ones left behind.
Originally from Mexico City, Chapiro is a filmmaker and journalist. She recently earned a master’s degree in documentary journalism from Columbia University's School of Journalism, and she is currently completing an MFA in creative producing at the university’s film school.
Through filmmaking, she hopes to bridge the gap between entertainment and journalism. She believes that storytelling is at the core of human existence and has the power to cut across political, cultural, and geographical borders.
“I’ve learned so much from this process,” Chapiro said about her experience as a Post-Grad Reporting Fellow. “I was very scared to take on this story and to be on the ground filming and reporting about this topic. I think that without the support I got from Pulitzer [Center], I wouldn’t have made this documentary. I learned to appreciate journalism and documentary filmmaking in a way that I had never done before.”
Chapiro is one of three winners in the Documentary category at the 50th annual Student Academy Awards, which received nearly 2,500 entries from 720 colleges and universities around the world this year. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will honor all of the student winners at an in-person award ceremony in Beverly Hills later this month, where gold, silver, and bronze medals will be announced.
Congratulations on this remarkable achievement, Jean! The trailer for Hasta Encontrarlos (Till We Find Them) can be viewed here.