Biola Feature "Cicada" Wins Grand Jury Prize at Guam International Film Festival

Cinema & Media Arts Professor Dean Yamada’s "Cicada" continues its film festival tour as he works on his second feature project

Sep. 30, 2014 By Stephen Day

Biola University's student-produced feature film “Cicada” won the grand jury prize for Best Narrative Feature at the Guam International Film Festival on Sept. 26, where it was the centerpiece film. Lead actor Yugo Saso also won the award for best actor. The film continues to receive recognition on the festival circuit in the U.S. and neighboring countries since its release in April and will play at the San Diego Asian Film Festival and the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival in the coming months.


The film was the first Biola feature length filmed internationally, after four previous international shorts. Directed by cinema and media arts professor Dean Yamada, “Cicada” was filmed, produced and edited with the assistance of Biola film students. The next Biola international film, “A Place in Heaven,” is slated for release in Spring 2015.


“It’s amazing to be able to collaborate with students and with these overseas teams that are helping us create art and create something that hopefully has a lasting impact,” said Yamada. “[The process] is not perfect yet, but we’re happy with the product and the students are happy with the experience.”


“Cicada” was filmed in Japan in 2012 with the help of ten Biola students and three alumni. It has been featured at the Rhode Island Film Festival and the 30th Annual Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival where it also received the grand jury prize for Best Narrative Feature. Yamada also recently discovered that the film would receive an award at Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis, IN, where it is screening eight times between Oct. 16-25. He won a similar award at Heartland Film Festival with his short-film “Bicycle” five years ago.


“It’s pretty amazing to me, to think that we could go back [to Heartland] with a feature,” said Yamada.


The festival circuit is important as it builds the film’s pedigree and allows for distributors to view the film with an end-goal of possibly purchasing and distributing the film on television or online platforms.


While Cicada moves around to different festivals, Yamada is continuing to work on his second feature-length production, “A Place in Heaven.” The feature was filmed in Jakarta, Indonesia during the summer of 2013 with the help of eight Biola students.


Yamada is targeting the Spring 2015 release date for the film and believes it is an achievable deadline if post-production continues to move at an appropriate pace. The film is currently in the editing stages, as Yamada works with a Biola alumnus who is employed in the entertainment industry.


“We’re still trying to get the story right in the editing room, but hopefully that’ll be done in the next month or so,” said Yamada. “Because we shot in Jakarta, there’s so much traffic and noise that the audio is going to be really difficult to clean up.”


The film is entirely in Indonesian, so as part of their preparation, students going on the trip learned some Indonesian in a 3-credit pre-production class. Students also got class credits for their time away and some will be involved in the audio-editing process as part of a post-production class.


The film revolves around the story of two dogs — one in the country and one in the city.


“When tragedy strikes those dogs it affects the families and the owners of those dogs, and therefore reveals fractures in each of those families,” said Yamada. “It’s a little more complicated because Indonesia is a Muslim country and Muslims view dogs as dirty, which adds a whole different layer and dimension to it.”


Yamada is planning to revisit Indonesia to make his third student-assisted feature film in 2015.


Click here to read Yamada's interview with Guam International Film Festival.


Written by Stephen Day, iBiola Reporter. For more information contact Jenna Bartlo, media relations specialist, at 562.777.4016 or

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