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Brockport professor wins documentary awards

by Shelby Toth
Tue, Feb 20th 2018 09:00 pm
Orzel's scleroderma film also won her the Scleroderma Foundation Messenger of Hope Award, and she traveled to the 2017 Rochester Scleroderma Educational Forum to
Orzel's scleroderma film also won her the Scleroderma Foundation Messenger of Hope Award, and she traveled to the 2017 Rochester Scleroderma Educational Forum to

The College at Brockport’s own Virginia Orzel, associate professor in the Department of Communication, has won two Awards of Merit from the IMPACT DOC Awards. One award was for her film “Scleroderma: The Truth” and another for her film “Dyslexia: A Beautiful Brain.”

The IMPACT DOC Awards are, as Orzel explained, similar to the Telly Awards. They allow documentary filmmakers from all over the world to submit their work. As stated on the IMPACT DOC website, the goal of the awards is to “promote filmmakers of all backgrounds and experience levels – who seek to ignite social change and to support their careers through meaningful filmmaking.”

Orzel submitted both her films in hopes that at least one would win. Both films, however, made the cut for an Award of Merit. There are different levels of award one can win with the IMPACT DOC Awards: Best of Show, Outstanding Achievement, Award of Excellence, Award of Recognition and Award of Merit. 

While winning these awards is a huge deal for any filmmaker, Orzel admits that that’s not what she measures her success by. Both films that won awards have also been, or will be, screened nationally.

“It’s kind of like someone who writes a book who got a book published,” Orzel said. “I got my film published, which is huge. To me, that’s even bigger than winning the IMPACT DOCS.”

Both films Orzel shot held special meaning to her. She explained that her aunt had Scleroderma and passed away from it, leading Orzel to create “Scleroderma: The Truth.” Her film “Dyslexia: A Beautiful Brain,” though, has a debatably more personal meaning.

“I’m profoundly dyslexic and have ADHD, and for years, I’ve been listening to people thinking that they know how to solve the problem of helping someone...” Orzel said. “It’s unbelievable what [a few professors] have said about students, that they’re dumb… when the reality is that they struggle in reading and writing. And reading and writing do not dictate your intelligence.”

Orzel went on to explain that hearing people talk about dyslexia without “knowing the truth” upset her, and inspired her to create the film from a unique perspective.

“I know there’s a lot of films out there about dyslexia, but I wanted it to be from the dyslexic point of view so people would understand what’s happening, and also could for a moment experience what it’s like to try and read as a dyslexic,” Orzel said.

Orzel has also entered her films in multiple film festivals and the Telly Awards, which she’ll hear results from in the coming months.

These certainly aren’t Orzel’s first films. She has been involved in various projects through the years, some of which also won different awards. These include two Bronze Telly Awards, one each for her films “The Morgan Manning House Legacy” and “One Breath: A Personal Journey with Asthma.” The latter of the films was also featured in the SUNY Wide Film Festival.

Her movies have also been featured in various film festivals, such as Phoenix International Christian Film Festival, 2010, and the International High Falls Film Festival, 2008.

Orzel continues to be involved in multiple films, currently working on two 40-minute long videos to submit to NPR’s “StoryCorps” podcast, in hopes of being featured. The podcast features inspiring stories about real people’s lives. Orzel is creating the videos based on two women she met while filming her dyslexia and scleroderma films.  

Orzel is also researching for three other potential films: dyslexia and prisoners, focusing on the connection between young men in prison and their dyslexia, leukemia in children, and Daigo’s disease, another rare disease.

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