George Mason University
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George Mason University

Film senior Alicia Rodriguez awarded Princess Grace Scholarship Award

September 10, 2019

Alicia Rodriguez

Alicia Rodriguez, winner of the 2019 Princess Grace Award for Undergraduate Film Scholarship

George Mason University film and video studies Major Alicia Rodriguez has won the highly competitive and prestigious Princess Grace Award (PGA) for her thesis film, an experimental documentary titled A Diasporic Boricua. She is the only undergraduate recipient of PGA film scholarship this year.

Each year, the Mason Film and Video Studies faculty nominate one student to apply for the Princess Grace Award with their Senior Capstone project in Directing, according to Giovanna Chelser, the Film and Video Studies Program director. The PGA application process is intensive, and the Film at Mason Princess Grace nominee spends a month preparing their PGA application materials with faculty mentorship.

Rodriguez worked with Professor Nikyatu Jusu, a former PGA recipient herself, in developing her senior film project last semester and her PGA application, which included a detailed project description, artist statement, story summary, sample budget, and work samples that demonstrated artistic style and ability.

When she learned she won the award, Rodriguez describes feeling overtaken by disbelief and excitement.

“I was genuinely shocked and had to challenge imposter syndrome to realize that this amazing thing had just happened,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez received the call while she was still in the pre-production phase of filmmaking, and the award helped ease the financial burden of completing the project. Rodriguez is grateful to the Film at Mason program and her professors for all of their support and encouragement during the process.

“When I got the call, I began to see the potential of my film further become tangibly solidified, and I became reinvigorated and re-inspired to uplift these stories that are so often overlooked within my community,” Rodriguez said of her film, which depicts trauma, survival, and resistance within her community of the Puerto Rican diaspora.

It might be surprising to learn that Rodriquez did not enter Mason with the intent to study film. She enrolled with the sole intention of studying social justice and human rights.

“Once filmmaking was introduced to me, it became such an integral piece to my own role in social justice and my own being as an artist,” she says. “I decided to double-major, and since then, the Film at Mason program has allowed me to see a future for myself centered in filmmaking, bringing together both community organizing work and art. Receiving guidance and feedback throughout the semester on my thesis project, being nominated for the Princess Grace Award, and now continuing to receive assistance with the grant after being named a recipient are just a few of the many examples of how this program has continually supported me.”

After learning of her student’s win, Jusu says she couldn’t be prouder.

“She shines a light on the values and artistry at the heart of our Film at Mason mission,” said Jusu. “We are a community of storytellers who, through inclusive film practices, speak to the issues of our time. Alicia’s documentary participants include women in New York of the Puerto Rican diaspora. As a cinematic artist working in experimental documentary, Alicia’s film will emerge evocatively.”

The Princess Grace Foundation-USA is a nonprofit, publicly supported foundation, headquartered in New York City and founded 37 years ago by Prince Rainier III of Monaco to honor his wife, Princess Grace's [Kelly] legacy. The foundation's mission is to identify and assist emerging talent in theater, dance, and film by awarding grants in the form of scholarships, apprenticeships, and fellowships. 

“With access to resources and support for my thesis, I have the ability to practice intentionally connecting content and form through experimental documentaries that reclaim power by portraying meaningful community stories,” Rodriguez said.

The award will allow Rodriquez to further develop her artistry and skills as a storyteller and experimental filmmaker. A Diasporic Boricua, like Rodriguez’s earlier work, connects social justice issues to audiences through film. Her past documentary work has screened in festivals including the 2018 film Cultivation and Community, which played at the Virginia Film Festival and Washington West Film Festival. Her recent director of photography roles include working for a feature documentary, a music video for The Grey A, and other short film work. Other awards include the 2019 Joy R. Hughes Award for Best Documentary Pitch, Film at Mason's Best Cinematography Award (2018 Close Call & 2019 Jihad), and 2018 Capital Emmy Student Production Award for Short Form—Fiction by the National Capital Chesapeake Bay Chapter of NATAS for the role of director of photography in Close Call.

Rodriquez’s experimental documentary film A Diasporic Boricua will be screened in the Mason Fall Showcase on December 7. The event is open to all.

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