NFFTY film festival showcases talented young filmmakers
By Sharon Miki, Assistant Editor
One of the nice things about being in college is that there’s always this underlying sense of youthful promise. Looking towards the future. For some, this “I’ve got time” mentality is used as an excuse to be a little indolent, to focus on partying and being a quintessential kid. However, for others, “young” is an irrelevant moniker that only serves to amplify the impressive nature of their dedication and talent. Case in point? The 220 wunderkind-fuelled films on display at this year’s National Film Festival for Talented Youth (NFFTY) showed once and for all that kids today have something to say (and they’re saying it better than in most films you see from Hollywood).
A NFFTY festival
NFFTY is the largest youth film festival in the world, showcasing the work of directors aged 22 and under in a massive four-day festival held in downtown Seattle from April 26 to 29. Filmmakers from around the world—this year featured directors from as the United Kingdom, Egypt, and Afghanistan—presented their work in genre-based screenings ranging from happy hour, sex, lies & angst , late night horror, animated films, and music videos.
On paper, it’s easy to assume that films stemming from teens and college kids would be a whirlpool of angst, low fi, and DIY pictures. However, while I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a fair share of melodrama (kids will be kids, am I right?), the vast majority of the work presented was incredibly well-made, technologically advanced, and genre bending.
“The films of NFFTY 2012 represent the voice of this generation. The stories are heart stopping, gut wrenching and truly unforgettable,” said NFFTY founder and Artistic Director Jessie Harris.
Ayo I’m (not tired) of using technology
One of the things that set many of the films at NFFTY apart from the rest was their use and experimentation with cutting-edge technology—from the latest and best in cameras, to editing software, to lighting, to filming techniques. Indeed, the youthful optimism of the group seemed to amplify the competitive nature among filmmakers: with no money and nothing to lose, the NFFTY crowd was open to anything.
One particularly impressive hi-techer was five-time NFFTY filmmaker 16-year-old Ben Kadie, whose short, Alone Together, featured incredible Cinema 4D technology. Using Cinema 4D, (which uses integrated 3-D modeling, animation, and rendering), Kadie created an incredibly realistic, Titanic-esque shipwreck sequence. Paired with a script and directorial eye far more mature than one would expect from a high school sophomore, Kadie’s film epitomized the experimentation and advancement of young filmmakers at the festival.
While I’m not usually a fan of animated films (personal thing… I had a bad experience with “Ice Age” back in ’02), the NFFTY cartoons blew my mind. Personal favourites came from teenaged Lego aficionados Kris, 14, and Kurtis, 18, Theorin. The Theorins’ Legando, a lego-based Zorro spoof, used brilliant pacing, voice acting, and witty banter (a scene playing off the philosophies of John Locke was unexpectedly hilarious) to encapsulate a whole lot of adventure into pint-sized plastic.
Taking a more overtly sophisticated spin on NFFTY animation was the spectacular Sintel, Colin Levy’s epic adventure fantasy short about a girl and her pet dragon. What’s intriguing about Sintel, aside from its gorgeous 3-D animation, is the open-source model it used for its creation and distribution. As a project initiated by the Blender Foundation, Sintel as a film and all of its attributes are released under the Creative Commons, in which anyone is free to distribute, adapt, or reuse anything from the film—truly innovative in both production and spirit.
The next big things
While the talent was abundant throughout, the crème de la crème of the festival were the Centerpiece Gala shorts, which organizers promoted as the “best of the best by names you’ll be sure to see again.”
BC local and Capilano University filmmaker Joel Ashton McCarthy’s “Why Does God Hate Me” caused a buzz with its heartwarming tale about coming out as a teen in a fundamentalist religious community. In a room full of youth, the underlying tones of growth and self-discovery seemed to blanket the theatre with hope.
Building upon this optimism, Caleb Slain’s It Ain’t Over offered a breathtakingly mature reminder of the darkest and brightest aspects of humanity. Telling the story of a man afflicted with ALS, It Ain’t Over left behind the obvious heartstring-pulling clichés in favor of a gritty—yet still wrenching—real-life portrayal of disease and fortitude.
Finally, closing the Centerpiece Gala was 19-year-old film student and YouTube celebrity Dom Fera’s “The End”—a contemporary Woody Allen-esque take on a love story. What set The End apart from the pack (it took home both the Audience Choice award for the screening and the Best Narrative Short award for the festival) was its sharp writing. While The End was not the most technically beautiful or innovative of the bunch, it hit a chord that was immensely apropos for now—resonating with, well, kids today.