Has it been five years since I last saw the Reel Youth Film Festival? It’s been a long time. Nevertheless having VIFF online gave me the chance to see it again.
This year’s films were a mix of films that looked like they were done by youth and films that were obviously directed by 20+. Some looked very professionally done while some make the amateurishness obvious. All of them did have themes and messages that appeared to be directed to the youth or would be of youth interest.
This year, there were eighteen films. There were five Canadian films, but only two local. Film entries for this year came from the United States, Brazil, India, Bulgaria, Spain, Australia, Romania, China, Ethiopia, Switzerland, Iraq and the UK. Films were a mix of animation, documentary to live-action fiction. They ranged from drama to comedy to informative.
Topics were of a wide range. Even with this pandemic, there was one Canadian film by a teen girl about the struggles of physical isolation and only being able to reach out through a computer. There was another from India of a woman using her creativity to work from home. There were other themes of focus like breaking social barriers, generation gaps, regaining silence in a world full of noise, choices that can change one’s life, a future of pollution, overcoming loneliness with your passion, dealing with post-war trauma, and dealing with autism. There were also some light-hearted films like an animated film about monkeys and baby aliens.
The two themes that most stood out among the short films were themes involving racism and racial identity, and sexuality. With racism being a hot topic in 2020, the Fest didn’t stray away from it this year. One film was about a black girl admitted into an all-white private school and made to feel inferior. Another is of a Mexican-American girl and how she deals with the identity of herself and her people at a time with calls of ‘build the wall’ from Trump and his supporters. There were two films of Inuit people. One was of an elder from Nunavut who passes down to the younger generation hunting skills, cultural traditions and the language. Another film focuses on Inuit youth and what culture means to them. The film ends with them doing traditional throat singing.
As for films about sexuality, there were three. One was a documentary about a Vancouver drag performer who performs by the rule “Don’t do drag for free.” Another was a drama of a girl from China returning home after her grandmother’s death; a grandmother who rejected her after she spoke of her orientation. The third was a comedy about a girl who never had a first kiss from a boy. She realizes she’s a lesbian and gets her first kiss from a girl during the first snowfall.
They again had the ballot for the three favorite films of this year. This year’s ballot was completely online. I had lots of problems trying to access the online ballot. So it looks like I will have to post the picks of my Top 3 here:
- Monochrome – The story of Essence, a 17 year-old girl who’s the only black student in an all-white private school. The teens and students don’t hesitate to make her feel like a misfit. She feels like the only way to fit in is to assimilate herself. It’s a very powerful message about the racism we don’t always notice.
- Little Swallow Coming Home – A Chinese film about a young girl who returns home after her grandmother died. The memories of how her grandmother rejected her when she came out as a lesbian flood her mind and make her nervous. Then she notices a photo with a message from her grandmother saying she always loved her. It’s a reminder that LGBT struggles are universal. Not just at home.
- Dayo – A man named Dayo is lonely at home. But when he walks into the kitchen, he’s an artist and beloved for his culinary confections by the customers and his co-workers. It’s a brief three-minute animated film, but it packs in the charm in its time.
This year’s Reel Youth Film Festival didn’t offer too much in terms of local film. Nevertheless the Festival was very good at providing a wide variety of films from around the world with common themes relating to young people.
2013 was a focus more on young film makers. 2014 was still a majority of young filmmakers but did more focus on film directed to young people rather than focus on the age of the directors. Films made for young people by directors 20+ in age were more welcome that year than the previous one. This year was return to more focus on filmmakers up to age 19 and less focus on films by directors 20 or older.
This year there were 19 films. Seven were from Canada with four from BC. Six were from the United States with entries from Latvia, Kosovo, Iran, Georgia, India and Australia. Films focused on issues but they also had some fun too. The fun films included an animated short of a man and his dog on a stranded island, a boy asking another boy out and redoing it until he gets it right, a dating situation that can best be described as ‘a gas,’ human life from a dog’s eye view, life that starts in a smalltown and takes you back there, an animated film of a mantis’ first date and a simple task of getting a selfie with a 20 foot pink elephant that’s not so simple.
Issues however was the top focus of the festival and the shorts did speak about their issues. Issues included homelessness, bullying, missing indigenous women in Canada that often go overlooked, harassment at work, youth poverty in Canada and young disabled people.
Some of the films included dramatic settings such as a friendship between a man and a dog in tough times, emotional states relating to colors, a young person’s journey through life and the unfriendliness of our modern times, especially in urban India. There were some films that were biographical or focal like the homeless shelter cook from San Antonio, teenage musicians from BC with dreams that seem ignored by the school system and an 85 year-old woman with the self-confidence of a movie star.
Despite a lot of issues, there were films with messages of hope. Messages focused on homelessness in San Antonio, finding joy in pain the way Charlie Chaplin did, being comfortable in your own skin and making a disabled child feel like they’re not a misfit. Even a plotless short from Iran of a young grandson in a house with a leaky roof trying to keep the rain off his sleeping grandmother seemed like it had a message to say.
I think that was the point of this year’s selected shorts. These were films that focused on life, on emotions, on issues of concern, on problems and on hope. They all had something to say whether it be humorous or whether it be serious. Some had top-notch cameras or animation quality. Some were amateurish in writing, acting or even conveying their issue. Nevertheless all had their qualities that made it worth showing to the audience.
Once again, we were given our ballots to select our three favorite films and our favorite local film. Here were my picks:
- Love On Wheels – A Georgian film of a wheelchair-bound boy who’s accompanied by his father (actually played by his brother) who’s also in a wheelchair so that he doesn’t feel cut off from the world.
- Priorities – An animated short from Latvia of a man and his dog stranded on a deserted island during a rainstorm. Excellent animation quality.
- The Second Right Off Main Street – An Ontario short of an adolescent growing up in a small town, moving away to pursue bigger and better things and finding himself back in his town.
- Local – 1 in 5 – About a bully a teen girl can’t seem to stand up for herself against: poverty. Title reflects the statistic of youth poverty in BC. Filmed in New Westminster.
And there you go. That’s my look at this year’s selection of shorts at the Reel Youth Film Festival. If you know a young filmmaker, I recommend you let them know of the Reel Youth film society.
You may remember at last year’s VIFF, I saw the Reel Youth Film Festival. The Reel Youth Fest was back again at this year’s VIFF. Again it was entertaining and creative.
Last year the main focus was to get the works of a lot of young filmmakers on screen. It didn’t matter if the quality was amateurish or professional. Its focus was to get the filmmaking images of the youth–whether it was making a point or just having fun– and get them on the big screen. This year did feature a lot of films done by the young. However it also featured a lot of productions by professional companies with a message to give to the young.
One of the top themes of the short films was bullying. This was especially the case as the United Way showcased the top three anti-bullying films by students. It was also focused on in a short film by a young Scottish director. Environmentalism was also a top theme of focus. With the controversial subject of shipping LNG’s, that was reflected in a BC film of three girls who have what starts as an innocent water balloon fight. There was the theme of youth representation which was focused on in a film done by five Hamilton teens. There was also the theme of digital media overkill that was shown in one young man’s film. There was also the theme of pressures young people face today–both socially and academically–as seen through the eyes of a young teen girl. Even teen love triangles were also focused. The theme of sexuality was included in a few films too including one on the topic of transgenderism from Portugal of a girl who always felt she was a boy.
The standout theme amongst the short films was to do about the promise and hope of a better tomorrow. That was reflected in one short film from Mexico about a boy who has to vacate his home to a new home. Another film showing the daily life of a Mexican-American girl’s mother while the daughter narrates in the background shows hope for her family. It was also reflected in an Iranian film of a young boy who sees hope in a piece of trash. It was even focused creatively in one film of a Bengali boy doing pretend filming. There was even one film from ex-street youth from Sierra Leone who showed what happens when they get $2000 handed to them immediately. The outcome isn’t what they expected but they all learned from it. I felt the message of hope for the future was best reflected in a film about a Peruvian youth orchestra where the orchestra is their escape from the poverty and harsh lives.
Sometimes the films weren’t always thematic. Sometimes they were reflections of people. There were two films which were of two different elderly people living in Greater Vancouver. One was the first black quarterback in professional football. Another was of a woman who just turned 91. Both were nice stories to hear. There was even a film about children in a small town in the Northwest Territories. It was just them playing in the background as the stories they tell of themselves and their family are told. It was a simple film that’s a nice eye opener.
Then there were films that try to get creative. This is where the young directors started to have fun. One was a story of a hitman’s murder attempt with poisonous muffins gone wrong. Another of a toy car getting lost and going on an adventurous trip. Another an animated adventure of a polar bear. Even an animated story of a fish dinner gone awry. No major point to it. Just a chance to have some fun and even possibly make a future out of it.
The films either came from all over the world or were shot in many places around the world. It made for an eclectic look at the lives of young people from a global perspective. Needs and concerns differ from one place to the next but they all share that common desire for hope for the future. There were at least eight films from Canadian filmmakers. There were six of which that were done locally. There was even one that was done by New Westminster youth and shot in areas I frequently visit. That was the film where it appears they’re giving adults a glove. Then they show they’re spreading the love. It left me wondering when it was filmed and how I wasn’t there at the time. I’m sure if they gave me the glove at first, I too would think: “What on earth is this?”
Just like last year, they gave all the attendees a ballot to fill out of their Top 3 films and favorite local. It’s hard to play favorites but here’s what I voted for:
- Orchestra For A Dream – I rated it first because it had the best message of hope by showing a way out for disadvantaged youth.
- Sin Madre – The film of the young girls’ mother and the daughter’s admiration for her really made me like this a lot.
- What If There Was A Place? – Five Hamilton youth make their message heard that they demand to be taken seriously. Excellent two-minute film.
- Best Local: And That’s Remarkable – A creative film that sends the message that you can either let bullying comments hurt you or you can defy them.
And there you go. That was the Reel Youth Film festival for this year. If you want to learn more about the Reel Youth Fest coming to your town or if you want to book a showing of your own, just go to the Reel Youth website.
One thing about the Vancouver Film Fest is that they show a lot of films and shorts from upcoming filmmakers. They also show films made by youth or young filmmakers too. The Reel Youth Film Festival–which is a festival all it own and had its premiere at the VIFF on Sunday–showcases films from young filmmakers.
Most of the time whenever there’s a shorts segment show I see, I review all the shorts one by one. Now rather than review the shorts, I will just describe what I saw. Besides I wouldn’t consider it to be fair to critique student films.
The twenty-five films were chosen out of three-hundred entries. The films are from Canada and seven other countries and range from one minute to nine minutes. They consist of animation or live-action. They are filmed on typical motion picture format or typical run-of-the-mill video camera. They range from a played-out stories to music videos to animation exhibits to social messages. Some of the films appeared amateurish in quality, some appeared quite professional in quality. Most can be classified as G-rated works but two films in the festival were rated PG with one even including nudity and masturbation (non-explicit, of course). Three videos included were also part of the United Way’s contest to create a one-minute anti-bullying film. Two videos were from the UNIS student program including one of two girls growing up in a rural area of Vietnam.
The films show a lot through their eyes. A lot of it is often about school life, home life and even the work life they anticipate to have in the coming years. Sometimes they focus on other people such as gypsies, two sisters in Vietnam, a graffiti artist or an elderly man in the town. Sometimes they focus on social issues like bullying, corporate greed, homelessness or drugs. Sometimes they focus on fun aspects like dating, school irritations, social media and even the city they’re proud to call home. Sometimes they even focus on nonsense subjects like the death of a sandwich, being scared by a ghost, an office dork or a certain secret about Barbie we never knew.
The thing is that most of the students doing the filming may or may not want to take filmmaking to further directions in their life. Some–like the directors of Crack, Hank and Light Switch–appear to want to take filmmaking seriously in the future. Many others look like they prefer the direction of animation. Some are just amateurs doing it for fun. I guess that’s what the focus of the Reel Youth Film Festival is: more concerned about getting out their voice or creativity rather than the seriousness or professionalism of the craft.
The screening I saw Sunday evening was actually the World Premiere of the annual Reel Youth Film Festival. There will be one more showing at the VIFF on a Wednesday morning open for student groups. It will be showing at more locations to come and the Festival can act as a fundraiser for your community centre. If you’re interested in screenings or interested in showing it at a place you know, or even if you know a young filmmaker with dreams, just go to: http://www.reelyouth.ca/
One last thing. That evening I went had a ballot for all to fill out. The ballot was asking the voter of their three favorite films and their favorite local film. I don’t know if they will be doing it again in their next showings but I had a chance to pick my favorites:
- Being Ernest
- Fav Local: Too Old For Fairy Tales
The Reel Youth Film Festival is a good attraction at the VIFF. Who knows? Maybe one of the directors can make it big one day.