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Recent Graduate Wins Awards at National Film Festivals

"I Become Gilgamesh" by Juan de la Guardia (M.F.A. in Cinema-Television, ’10) receives honors for "Best Feature" in Mississippi and "Excellence for Original Music" in Utah

I Become Gilgamesh, the thesis feature film written and directed by Juan de la Guardia (M.F.A.Cinema-Television-2010) with the participation of numerous SMU music, cinema and theatre students, is winning awards at national film festivals.

In its first contest entry, at the 8th Annual Tupelo Film Festival in Mississippi May 12-14, it captured the award for “Best Feature.” Nearly 70 filmmakers from throughout the U.S. and as far away as Australia competed in this year’s festival, whose past winners have gone on to be featured on PBS, the Biography Channel and the Sundance Channel.

Two weeks later, it received the Gold Medal for “Excellence in Original Music for a Feature Film” at the 2011 Park City Film Music Festival in Utah, an independent film festival founded in 2004 and dedicated to film music. The competition, which had more than 200 entries this year, is “the first film festival in the world singularly recognizing the contribution of composers and their music to film, and the first of such festivals in the Americas.”

Dan Lazarescou, who earned a master’s degree in music composition at SMU in 2010, wrote the music for Gilgamesh. “It was a thrill to have our film honored at the Park City festival, especially since a number of the other entries had scores written by well-established Hollywood composers,” said Lazarescou.

A psychological thriller, I Become Gilgamesh centers on Dr. Michael Sieggombe, a biology professor and single father who lectures on cancer while struggling against the disease himself. Two mysterious characters emerge to turn his world upside down and show him a path that will not only allow him to beat the cancer, but cheat death itself. The tale blends modern science, classic mythology, passion and immortality and has kept audiences on the edge of their seats.

Juan de la Guardia conceived the project in his advanced screenwriting class. The film was entirely shot in Dallas, and the cast and crew included SMU theatre alumni Abbey Siegworth and Matt Tallman (both M.F.A. 2010) and film students Eric Aceves, Adrian Escobar, Lauren Hadaway, Dan Maitland, Sarah Nolen, Rob Thomson, Trey Trevino and Ben Tully. De la Guardia said he’s excited by the response to the film so far, and noted, “We have an entire year of film festivals ahead and eventually hope to move on to some form of distribution.” The film is not yet available for commercial viewing outside of film festivals, but he hopes to stage a Texas premiere soon.

A native of Panama, De la Guardia earned a degree in television production there and worked as a freelancer for eight years before coming to SMU in 2007 on a full scholarship to obtain his master’s degree. He is currently head of development at Dallas-based production studio 12 Forward, where he helped produce the show “Gator 911” for CMT. He also has written and directed the independent short film Crazy Pig, which screened at the Dallas International Film Festival in 2010.

For more information about I Become Gilgamesh, visit

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