The Columbia University Film Festival’s 18th annual Andrew Sarris Award will be presented to Laura Ricciardi ’07 and Moira Demos ’08 (CC ’96), alumni of the Columbia University School of the Arts Film Program. The Sarris Award, named for the late School of the Arts Film Program professor and world-renowned critic and theorist Andrew Sarris, honors outstanding service and artistic achievement of distinguished Film Program alumni.


The annual Andrew Sarris Award winner is selected by current School of the Arts Film Program students. Past recipients include Benjamin Odell '04 (How to be a Latin LoverOverboard), Kathryn Bigelow ’81 (The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty), James Ponsoldt ’05 (Off the BlackSmashedThe Spectacular Now), Jennifer Lee ’05 (FrozenA Wrinkle in Time), James Mangold ’99 (LoganWalk the Line), Kimberly Peirce ’96 (CarrieBoys Don’t Cry), Simon Kinberg ’03 (LoganDeadpool), Lisa Cholodenko ’97 (Olive Kitteridge,The Kids Are All Right), Albert Berger ’83 (NebraskaLittle Miss Sunshine), Nicole Holofcener ’88 (Enough SaidPlease Give), Malia Scotch Marmo ’88 (RafinaMadelineHookOnce Around), Greg Mottola ’91 (Super Bad), Sabrina Dhawan ’02 (Monsoon Wedding), Adam Davidson ’91 (The Lunch DateSix Feet UnderLostCommunity), Shari Springer Berman ’95 and Robert Pulcini ’94 (American Splendor).


Emmy Award-winning filmmakers Ricciardi and Demos are best known as the creative duo behind the hit Netflix series Making a Murderer, which was both critically-acclaimed and a global phenomenon.


The series garnered four Emmy Awards (Outstanding Documentary for Nonfiction Series, Outstanding Writing and Outstanding Directing for a Nonfiction Program, and Outstanding Picture Editing for a Nonfiction Program), a 2016 WEBBY Award for Film and Video Breakout of the Year, a Cinema Eye Honors Award, an IDA Award for Best Limited Series, and was named the 2016 Program of the Year at the Banff World Media Festival. The series also received the 2016 Outstanding Achievement in Reality Programming Award from the Television Critics Association (TCA), an American Bar Association Silver Gavel Award, and was nominated for the 2016 BAFTA Television Radio Times Audience Award. For their work on the series, Ricciardi and Demos received an award from the Producers Guild of America and were honored with the James Joyce Award for Human Endeavour from the Literary and Historical Society at University College Dublin. In addition to appearing on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and The Daily Show, Ricciardi and Demos have made numerous appearances on news, radio, and television programs around the world.  


In 2003, Ricciardi and Demos met as graduate film students at Columbia University. Two years later, they started production on Making a Murderer, which turned into a decade-long endeavor. In 2006, they formed the independent production company, Synthesis Films LLC.


Currently, Ricciardi and Demos are in production on a second season of Making a Murderer, and are adapting America’s Most Admired Lawbreaker, the serialized Huffington Post article by journalist Steven Brill, as a limited television series for George Clooney’s and Grant Heslov’s Smokehouse Pictures, which they are also set to direct.


Previous to Ricciardi’s career in film, in which she holds an MFA in Film from Columbia University, she earned a BA in English and Government from Manhattan College and a JD from New York Law School. After clerking for the US Attorney’s Office in Hawaii, and then working for the US Department of Justice, Ricciardi entered the private sector and practiced law in Chicago for four years.


Demos holds both a BA in Women and Gender Studies and an MFA in Film from Columbia University. Prior to attending graduate film school, Demos was an accomplished documentary editor whose credits include the Academy Award®-nominated short Ferry Tales. Demos also produced and edited the documentary short, Spring in Awe, for which she won Best Editing at the 2004 Brooklyn International Film Festival. Demos has also been a member of IATSE local 52 as a film and television lighting technician since 1999.


This year’s festival will open with Screenwriting Night and an Alumni Reception on Thursday, May 10, to be held for the first time at the brand new Lenfest Center for the Arts at 615 W. 129th St – designed by Renzo Piano for the School of the Arts as a hub for presentation and creation of art across all disciplines. The Sarris Award will be presented at Screenwriting Night.


The 31st Annual Columbia University Film Festival opens in New York on May 10, and runs through May 14. Its Los Angeles run will be held June 12–14.


Visit for up-to-date information and additional events, as well as a full list of Festival films, synopses, filmmaker bios and ticket information as it becomes available.

A picture of seats in an empty theatre.