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BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – Seventeen young filmmakers from around the world gathered in Beverly Hills, California, to utter the six magic words they've been practicing all their lives: "I'd like to thank the academy."
The film academy presented its 43rd annual Student Academy Awards Thursday night, recognizing narrative, documentary, animated and alternative productions by American and international college students.
Accepting medals from actors Lucy Liu, Joel Edgerton, Daisy Ridley and Parker Sawyers, the winning filmmakers were giddy as they got to thank the academy and actually mean it. The students spent the past week in Los Angeles as academy guests, meeting with studios and networking over fancy dinners.
"This is the most amazing week of my life," said Alex Schaad, of the University of Television and Film Munich, as he received his medal. "This evening, this ceremony, this whole week and this award will change a lot of things, and I will owe you that for the rest of my life."
Rongfei Guo, a Chinese filmmaker studying at New York University, said her parents don't understand the world of independent film, but the academy recognition will let her "prove to my parents that what your daughter's doing is about an Academy Award."
Liu said she was inspired by seeing "so many people who are excited about the future." Edgerton said he's humbled by the next generation of filmmakers.
"They have their eyes on what's really going on," he said. "And they're not thinking about the money, and I love that!"
Members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences chose the 17 winning films from a record 1,749 submissions. The winning filmmakers hail from China, Greece, Israel, Germany, Poland, Singapore and the United States. More than half are women.
Yvonne Ng, a student at City College of New York whose film is about the aftermath of the Hiroshima bombing, found a theme among the chosen works.
"It's no coincidence that tonight all the winners, the majority of our films are all about the past tragedies that happened on humanity," she said as she accepted her medal. "Someone tonight said to me that we represent the future of filmmaking. And I think we also represent the future that's screaming for peace and love, compassion and mutual respect."
Jimmy Keyrouz of Columbia University, whose film about a musician rebuilding his piano after it's destroyed by terrorists, thanked the academy for helping young filmmakers get their work seen.
"Our message is one of hope, and when people are hopeless and desperate, it becomes easier to turn to extremism," he said. "And in a world that is torn by wars and devastation, art is a mighty tool that helps us fight extremism and terrorism, so thank you to the academy for joining our fight. We take so many things for granted, like freedom of speech and expression, and in so many parts of the world, these are luxuries that must be fought for every day."
All of the winning student films are now eligible for Academy Awards. Two student films received nominations last year. Previous Student Academy Award winners include Spike Lee, Trey Parker, Cary Fukunaga, Robert Zemeckis and Pixar's Pete Docter and John Lasseter.
The 2016 Student Academy Award winners:
— "All These Voices," David Henry Gerson, American Film Institute
— "Cloud Kumo," Yvonne Ng, City College of New York
— "The Swan Girl," Johnny Coffeen, Maharishi University of Management
— "Die Flucht," Carter Boyce, DePaul University
— "Once upon a Line," Alicja Jasina, University of Southern California
— "The Wishgranter," Echo Wu, Ringling College of Art and Design
— "Fairy Tales," Rongfei Guo, New York University
— "4.1 Miles," Daphne Matziaraki, University of California, Berkeley
— "From Flint: Voices of a Poisoned City," Elise Conklin, Michigan State University
— "It's Just a Gun," Brian Robau, Chapman University
— "Nocturne in Black," Jimmy Keyrouz, Columbia University
— "Rocket," Brenna Malloy, Chapman University
— "Invention of Trust," Alex Schaad, University of Television and Film Munich (Germany)
— "Tenants," Klara Kochanska, The Polish National Film, Television and Theatre School (Poland)
— "Where the Woods End," Felix Ahrens, Film University Babelsberg (Germany)
— "Ayny," Ahmad Saleh, Academy of Media Arts Cologne (Germany)
— "The Most Beautiful Woman," Maya Sarfaty, Tel Aviv University (Israel)
Follow AP Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen at www.twitter.com/APSandy .