Cowboys and Astronauts and Talented Youth!

Filmmaker Tashaila Garrett being interviewed on the red carpet at NFFTY 2014.  Photo by Victor Antonio Labarthe.
Filmmaker Tashaila Garrett being interviewed on the red carpet at NFFTY 2014. Photo by Victor Antonio Labarthe.

Through the On-Site Review program, 4Culture evaluates arts and heritage organizations who receive Sustained Support funding. On-Site Reviewers attend events produced or presented by recipients and write up short reviews, which give the adjudicating Sustained Support panelists a patron’s-eye-view of each organization.  Each month, the 4Culture blog presents excerpts from these reviews.  This month’s review is by Jessica Lenderts.

There’s a certain kind of joy that comes from viewing the work of a master artist in the prime of their career – the kind of feeling you get when looking at a Monet painting, listening to a classic symphony or watching a great Scorsese film. There’s an entirely different, and just as wonderful, feeling that comes with experiencing the work of someone who is clearly at the very beginning of a promising career, and whose nascent talents are just emerging and being shaped. That’s what it was like to attend NFFTY, the National Film Festival for Talented Youth [at SIFF Cinema on April 27, 2014]. The Centerpiece Screening showcased the work of eight different young filmmakers, and spanned a variety of genres and topics. I was astounded by the breadth of work shown during the evening – especially given that this was just one small part of a much larger festival. Each film was entirely unique, and different than anything I’d ever seen before. From a short documentary about the leader of a homeless community in Indianapolis, to a music video featuring a pink-haired, sword-fighting heroine, to a story about the decimation of a Native American tribe, each film clearly displayed talent, depth of thought, and hard work on the part of the filmmakers.

To be sure, a few films stood above the rest, while others at times veered into more amateurish territory. My guest and I read the descriptions of all the films beforehand, and interestingly, some of the films we had been looking forward to the most turned out not to be our favorites, while others surprised us. Our favorite films were “Run with Me”, a beautiful film about physically handicapped young man who struggles to compete in sports, and “Journey Home”, a sweet short story about an astronaut who has just returned from the moon. One film, “Callback”, about a young university student who goes to an STD clinic, mystified us – we thought it was the best-scripted and most artistically shot of all the films, but it had an abrupt ending left us hanging (and wanting to know more). Another film, “Cowboys of Chincoteague,” was very well shot but had some stylistic incongruities that made us laugh. It was a great way to spend an evening, at times intriguing, funny, and poignant by turns.

It was also great to see the range of different ethnicities, abilities, and issues presented in the films. I thought it was especially nice to see young filmmakers taking on complex issues like racism, historical injustice, disabilities, homelessness, and global politics. I also thought it was interesting to see the geographical range of the filmmakers, who came from the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. After the screening there was a question-and-answer session with the filmmakers, and it was neat to hear about the creative process (and sheer amount of hard work!) that went in to making their films.

Talented Youth will be presenting a series of music videos at the downtown branch of Seattle Public Library at 2 pm on Saturday, Sept 27. The next NFFTY will be in the spring of 2015.