HPHS alum wins Oscar for documentary
And the Oscar goes to .... 1988 HP grad Megan Mylan!
Friends and family cheered with sheer delight in Dallas, Los Angeles and around the world Sunday night as Mylan walked onstage to accept the Oscar for her documentary "Smile Pinki," a story about a young girl from rural India whose life was changed after her cleft palate was repaired.
"As a storyteller, I look for compelling characters going through once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Pinki definitely had that," Mylan said. "I'm also attracted to stories of people making a positive impact in the world. I feel very strongly that this wonderful recognition is not just for my filmmaking, but also a celebration of the incredible humanity of the people in the film."
HPISD Fine Arts Coordinator Linda Raya, who taught Mylan at HPHS, was not surprised that her former student had snagged the most prestigious film award in the world.
"Megan was one of the most caring, loving students I ever had; even as a high school student she demonstrated tremendous kindness and compassion," Raya said. "No wonder she chose to document a child as beautiful as Pinki. In addition, she worked on 'West Side Story' as a stage manager so she certainly learned how to juggle a thousand details at once - perfect training for a producer!"
Raya remembers Mylan as a compassionate leader whose global vision was evident even as a high school student. Mylan was the president of Hi-Lites, a student-activities organization that uses proceeds from its fundraisers to support local outreach programs.
"It was a great experience that allowed me an opportunity to get to learn about Dallas outside of the Park Cities and start to figure out what role I wanted to play in the world," Mylan said
Irene Mylan, Megan's mother, described the experience of being in the audience at the Kodak Theatre the night of the Oscar presentations as especially poignant because of the story behind Megan's red dress.
"Her grandmother Julia Principe designed the stunning dress Megan wore at the Oscars when she was a fashion illustration student at the Pratt Institute in the 1930s," said Irene Mylan, who owns Clothes Circuit, a well-known consignment shop in the Park Cities. "Megan had promised that if she was ever to be nominated, she'd have that dress made. This is all so bittersweet for our family, as Julia died five months ago at 95. She would be so proud."
Although she was thrilled for her daughter, Irene Mylan described the experience as somewhat nerve-wracking.
"I was holding my breath - in fact, I don't know if I breathed at all the whole day," she said. "I heard them call Megan's name, and I thought about what a tender and sweet person she is and the changes she was able to cause through her filmmaking and her care for Pinki. Here we were, surrounded by the glitter and stars in Los Angeles, and I was struck by the contrast between that place and the countries like Africa and India where Megan had traveled to help children who are faced with circumstances beyond their control. I am so proud of her and what she is doing to help others while always honoring the local culture and traditions of the people she meets."
Pinki Sonkar, who was 6 at the time of the surgery, was 8 when she and her father were flown by HBO to Los Angeles to take part in the Oscar festivities. To read more about Pinki, click HERE
"It was wonderful to be able to have them at the Oscars with me to share in the praise," Mylan said. "Happily, the film has already had a dramatic effect on the lives of Pinki and her village with new housing, water pumps, and scholarships. I feel certain that we'll be able to connect the film with a broad audience to raise awareness of the work of the Smile Train and help children with clefts all around the world."
To read more about Smile Train, the U.S.-based charity that provided over 500,000 surgeries for children in 75 countries, click HERE
HBO owns the rights to "Smile Pinki," and is expected to air the film this summer or fall.
Mylan also earned acclaim for an earlier documentary entitled "Lost Boys of Sudan," which was nominated for two Emmys and earned an Independent Spirit Award. She is currently working on a piece focusing on the struggle for racial justice in Brazil.
To read the text of Mylan's Oscar acceptance speech, which was praised by critics as one of the evening's best, click HERE