Columbia College Chicago Student Film in the running for the Academy Awards®; included in 2022 Sundance Film Festival

Close Ties to Home Country was written and directed by Akanksha Cruczynski, an MFA Cinema Directing student, and produced by Felicia Ferrara ’20, who received her MFA in Creative Producing. The film was made as part of their graduate thesis film project.

Oscars® voting is underway for the 94th Annual Academy Awards®In the running is a short film by Columbia College Chicagostudents that is getting critical acclaim at festivals across the country.

A tragicomedy, Close Ties to Home Countryfeatures Akanksha, a young Indian immigrant who finds employment as a dogsitter to Timothee, whose owners are themselves traveling to India. Meanwhile, Akanksha’s sister is scheduled to visit the U.S. soon. While she waits, Akanksha bonds with Timothee, enjoys the spoils of white money, has her friend Sophia over to engage in judgy hijinks, and muses over why she stays away from her home country.

The film was written and directed by Akanksha Cruczynski, an MFA Cinema Directing student, and produced by Felicia Ferrara '20, who received her MFA in Creative Producing. The pair made Close Ties as part of their graduate thesis film project.

Close Ties will also be featured at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival in January. The film is one of 59 short films featured at Sundance this year; 14 are from the United States.

Born in India and raised in Saudi Arabia, Cruczynski draws on her personal experience as an immigrant and international student for her role in the film which uses humor to convey some uncomfortable moments for the character, as well as the struggles often faced by people from other countries living in the United States.

“This is a moment I could have only dreamed of,” Cruczynski said. “Winning the Student Academy Award already felt beyond incredible. Now getting to go to Sundance, having the film be an Oscar-contender—I'm pinching myself all the time. Historically people like me haven't gotten to go to film school or make movies. I'm so grateful that we're getting to prove that immigrant stories matter, and the time for them is now."

Cruczynski and Ferrara, worked with several Columbia College Chicago alumni to create the short including Cinematographer, Luke Dyra ’18, Cinema and Television Arts; composer, Brandon Stanley, MFA ’19 Music Composition for the Screen; and Colorist, Matthew Filipek ’17CTVA.

“On behalf of Columbia College Chicago, we congratulate Akanksha and Felicia on their incredible success, as well as the Columbia alumni who collaborated on the film,” said Thelma Vickroy, Chair of the Department of Cinema and Television Arts. “These women are an asset to the film industry and they have so much more to share and contribute.”

In addition, Close Ties to Home Country was recently honored at The Gotham Awards for having won The Gotham Film & Media Institute’s 3rd Annual Focus Features & JetBlue Student Short Film Showcase. It also received a 2021 Student Academy Award and a 2019 Albert P. Weisman Award. The film was on the BAFTA Student Shortlist 2021 and has played at and won awards at several Oscar-qualifying film festivals, including Telluride Film Festival, the Audience Award at Aspen Shortsfest, the Chicago Award Honorable Mention at Chicago International Film Festival and the Best Comedy Award at Indy Shorts International Film Festival. It has played at New Orleans International Film Festival, LA International Short Film Festival, LUNAFEST and many more, winning two awards each at the Walla Walla Movie Crush, Tasveer South Asian Film Festival and Salute Your Shorts Film Fest.



Located in the heart of downtown Chicago’s Cultural Mile, Columbia College Chicago is a private, nonprofit college offering a distinctive curriculum that blends creative and media arts, liberal arts, and business for nearly 7,000 students in more than 60 undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Dedicated to academic excellence and long-term career success, Columbia College Chicago creates a dynamic, challenging, and collaborative space for students who see the world through a creative lens.

About Echo Lake Entertainment:

Echo Lake Entertainment, founded by CEO Doug Mankoff in 1998, is a management, production and finance company based in Beverly Hills, California. The company has produced and financed over forty films, earning 8 Academy Award® nominations and 1 Academy Award® win. Echo Lake’s management division represents established and emerging actors, writers, IP creators and directors from all over the world and is led by former MGM chief Mike Marcus.

Echo Lake’s television series THE GREAT starring Elle Fanning and Nicolas Hoult is currently streaming its second season on Hulu. Echo Lake recently produced ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES for Netflix. Adapted from the New York Times bestselling book of the same title by Jennifer Niven, the script was written by Niven and Liz Hannah and stars Elle Fanning. The company has numerous TV projects set up at studios and networks.



Lambrini Lukidis
Associate Vice President Strategic Communications & External Relations