January 27, 2022

Southern Students Receive Film Award during Sundance Film Festival

"Knock Knock" tells a story about two masked students who find a way to connect.

Southern Adventist University, and Adventist Review

Three senior animation students in the School of Visual Art and Design at Southern Adventist University received the Windrider Best Undergraduate Student Film Award during the Windrider Summit and the Sundance Film Festival Experience 2022. The Windrider Summit, which was held virtually this year, is an official partner of the Sundance Institute. Christian students and leaders from around the world come together for screenings and thoughtful conversations around faith and film. 

Directors, creators, and animators Mugi Kinoshita, Avery Kroll, and Ruth Perez were recognized for their short animated film Knock Knock, which they created during the 2020-2021 school year. It tells the story of two masked elementary students who communicate by knocking on the plexiglass that divides them and writing sticky notes to each other. 

thumbnail SAU Knock Knock crew Perez Kroll and Kinoshita
From left to right, Ruth Perez, Avery Kroll, and Mugi Kinoshita, students who created, directed, and animated the award-winning short film Knock Knock. [Photo: Southern Adventist University]

“It is beyond my imagination that Knock Knock won this award,” Kinoshita said. “I’m amazed to see how God can use any talent to reach out to more people in the world.” 

The film previously won “Best Animated Short,” “Best in Festival,” and “Audience Choice Award” at the 2021 Sonscreen Film Festival, an annual event for Christian filmmakers. 

“Here at Southern, I’ve learned how powerful a good story can be,” Kroll said. “By reflecting on the situation we are all facing due to the pandemic, our story was able to connect with people in a meaningful way. Our animation professors have been extremely helpful throughout this process.” 

“We wanted to find a way to show that there can be a connection even when there are certain limitations,” Perez said. “I know the connections I’ve made here at Southern will play a major part in my future goals.” 

The School of Visual Art and Design professors aim to teach their students a balance of artistic perspectives while firmly grounding them in their faith.

“Animation is a powerful medium for communication,” Hendel Butoy, Disney veteran and the animation professor who oversaw the project, said. “We encourage our students and allow them to combine excellence of craft with the higher calling of uplifting others through the talents they’ve been given. Knock Knock is an excellent example of that vision coming to fruition.”