Documentary film earns an Emmy for Sean Fine '96

A year after winning an Oscar for best documentary short, filmmakers Sean Fine ’96 and Andrea Nix Fine have added a Primetime Emmy Award to their trophy case.

The pair won for their 90-minute documentary, “Life According to Sam.” The film focuses on 13-year-old Sam Berns' struggle with Progeria, a rare disease that rapidly accelerates the aging process. The average age of death for a child with the disease — there are approximately 200 other children with the condition in the world — is 13. 

The film won in the category of exceptional merit in documentary filmmaking, announced at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards ceremony on Monday, Aug. 16. It was the latest honor for Fine, Nix Fine and their film, which also won 2013 George Foster Peabody award and was nominated for a grand jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival. 

"Life According to Sam" follows Sam and his parents, Dr. Leslie Gordon and Dr. Scott Berns, in an incredible race to save Sam’s life. Their efforts lead to testing of the first experimental drug that might prolong Sam’s life and shed light on the process that is aging us all. The film is a lasting legacy for Sam, who died at the age of 17 on Jan. 10, 2014, just a few months after the film premiered on HBO. 

Fine, who designed his own major in zoology and filmmaking at Connecticut College, won the 2013 Oscar for best documentary short for “Inocente.” The film tells the story of a 15-year-old homeless girl, Inocente Izucar, who lives in San Diego as an artist and undocumented immigrant. Through painting, she learns to overcome the bleakness of her surroundings.

In the spring of 2014, Fine returned to Connecticut College to mentor students and teach as the Stark Distinguished Guest Resident in Film Studies. 

Fine told CC: Magazine in 2008 that professors Janis Solomon, now the Lucretia L. Allyn Professor Emeritus of German, and Theodore Hendrickson, associate professor of art, helped him find his niche.

“I was so grateful that they encouraged me to pursue my interests. I wasn’t squashed because I didn’t fit the mold. I had freedom,” he said.

September 30, 2014