By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., Chicago Crusader
Cinema/Chicago recently announced the programming details for the 13th annual CineYouth Festival, a three-day film festival showcasing short work by filmmakers ages 7 – 22 from around the world. The festival will be held Thursday, May 4, through Saturday, May 6, at Chicago’s historic Music Box Theatre (3733 N. Southport Ave.) and will open on Thursday, May 4, at 7 p.m. with the Chicago premiere of “My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea,” a critically-hailed animated film from graphic novelist Dash Shaw (“New School”) which was hailed by Indiewire as “the most original animated film of the year.” On Friday and Saturday, CineYouth will feature 11 programs, each comprised of 5 – 7 thematically grouped films of 15 minutes or less, including narrative, animated, documentary and horror films as well as music videos. In all, the program features 77 short films from eight countries. Tickets to all events are free.
CineYouth Festival is sponsored by Allstate Insurance Company and Bloomberg Philanthropies.
The opening night feature presentation, “My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea,” is an audacious debut that is equal parts disaster cinema, high school comedy and blockbuster satire, told through a dream-like mixed media animation style that incorporates drawings, paintings and collage. Dash (Jason Schwartzman) and his best friend Assaf (Reggie Watts) are preparing for another year muckraking on behalf of their school newspaper, edited by their friend Verti (Maya Rudolph). Just when a blossoming relationship between Assaf and Verti threatens to destroy the boys’ friendship, Dash learns of the administration’s cover-up that puts all the students in danger. As disaster erupts and the friends race to escape through the roof of the school, they are joined by a popular know-it-all (Lena Dunham) and a lunch lady (Susan Sarandon). The film was hailed as “a quick and dazzling burst of pleasure…something quite special,” by The Guardian and “An eccentric and lively animated fantasy,” by the New York Times. “My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea” is distributed by GKIDS.
On Friday, May 5, four programs will be screened, including “Laugh Track” (5 p.m.) which features comedic shorts; “Reel Women” (6 p.m.), showcasing films from young female directors; “Freaky Friday: Mind Games” (7 p.m.), a program of chilling short films; and “Cinema Chicago” (8 p.m.), a series of films from Chicago-based directors.
On Saturday, May 6, seven programs will light up the screen, including “Happy Hour” (10 a.m.), featuring animated and whimsical films appropriate for the entire family; “You, Me, Us” (11 a.m.), featuring the work of young documentarians; “World View” (12 p.m.), showcasing the work of international filmmakers from France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Belarus and the United Kingdom; “Visual Beats” (1 p.m.), casting the spotlight on music-based films; “Dramatics” (2 p.m.), a program addressing the gritty reality young people must face; “experimental cinema” (3 p.m.), featuring audacious, genre-challenging work replete with thought-provoking concepts and striking images; and “Midwest’s Best” (4 p.m.), featuring the work of Illinois-based filmmakers. Saturday’s programming culminates with an awards ceremony at 5:30 p.m.
“This year’s films were carefully selected from 465 submissions from North America, Europe and Asia,” said Cinema/Chicago’s Education Program Manager Lauren Ponto. “As one of the expanding programs added to Cinema/Chicago’s remarkable year-round events calendar, we’re immensely proud to present such high-caliber films from exceptional young talent.” Contin- uously evolving technology enables young filmmakers to create work of remarkable quality and sophistication. Among the highlights of this year’s festival are: “Welcome to the Peace House,” directed by Angelo Ross, Siera Blackman and Briona Barker-Daws, a documentary about the I Grow Chicago Peace House in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago.
“Pangaea,” directed by Olivia Peace, which tells the story of a lonely girl stranded on a rooftop desperately trying to return her life to a state of equilibrium after she is separated from her family. “ei: emotional intelligence,” directed by South Korean Dennis Kim, a story of an AI unit that is anything but artificial.
“Searching for Wives,” from Singaporean Zuki Jumo Tobgye, about a migrant worker from South India, whose customs prohibit him from marrying at an even age, and is trying to find a wife before his 32nd birthday.
“Frankie Keeps Talking,” from Brooklyn resident Annabelle Attanasio, a feminizst farce about the frustration a young woman feels when she realizes her date will not stop talking.
“All Sewn Up,” from Parisian Inès Bensalem, showing how a young man’s life is shaken up when a terrorist attack forces him to reconsider his appearance, particularly his much-criticized beard.
“NIGHT,” from Dutch filmmaker Joosje Duk, telling the story of Sue, who hopes that a visit from her cousin Genelva will connect two different parts of her life. As part of this year’s program, long-time festival partner WTTW will present the first-ever WTTW Award, recognizing achievement in documentary filmmaking. The award winner will receive a production internship at WTTW studios. In addition to WTTW, festival partners include Tribeca Flashpoint College, which provides scholarships to its renown- ed summer film workshop and The Prodigy Camp, a summer home in Seattle, WA., where talented teen filmmakers from around the world hone their craft and develop relationships with other artists.
In the lead up to the festival, CineYouth will challenge 50 Chicago area students, ages 10 – 18, to work together in teams to create short films in one day. The Film Challenge will be held on April 22 and is sponsored by Columbia College Chicago. The completed films will be screened at the CineYouth Festival awards ceremony on May 6. The festival also features a Film Pitch on May 6 where three filmmakers will present their works-in-progress to industry professionals who will provide feedback. The winner of the pitch will receive a $250 cash prize and a $1,000 credit toward pre- and post-production film equipment provided by Chicago-based movie equipment company, Magnanimous Media.
Allstate has been a long-standing supporter of Cinema/Chicago. This marks the first time the company is supporting CineYouth. “Arts education is woefully lacking across our education system, yet it’s so critical to the development of young minds,” said Allstate’s Senior Vice President of Corporate Responsibility Vicky Dinges. “CineYouth bridg- es that knowledge gap by providing young people a forum to express themselves, and, just as importantly, the program builds their confidence, teaches them leadership skills and teamwork — life skills they can carry forward their entire lives. That’s why Allstate is so proud to support this effort. We are committed to empowering youth to step up as leaders in their communities and realize their full potential.” For more information on the CineYouth Festival, visit http://www.chicagofilmfestival.com/cineyouth/. Free tickets to screenings and events are available now.