A closer focus on 3 prize-winners by young filmmakers

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UPDATED, Nov. 4: In its 10th year, the Arlington International Film Festival (AIFF) includes a series of student-made films in its online-only Nov. 5-15 lineup, when you can watch any film at any time during that period. Get festival passes >>

Here are some of the “Voices of Our Youth.” 

A criminal threat. An environmental issue. A suicide.

These three angles nest among many in films created by youthful filmmakers honored. YourArlington.com reached out to learn more about six films.

See the whole lineup of youth films >> Here is more from those responding:

L-J Shen Filerman, 16, is a sophomore at the Cambridge School of Weston. His nine-minute narrative, "Sanctuary," sponsored by Kumon of Arlington, was named Best of Festival.

Poster for 'Sanctuary.'

He says he made the film "simply because I wanted to tell a story. Specifically, I wanted to make a suspense-styled film with the challenge of having no crew or actors, given that my family was following the Arlington-mandated stay-at-home order.

"Making a film on my own, however, is not something new to me; when I was younger, even around 4 and 5 years old, I spent much of my time setting up an iPad and making films by myself, adding stock sound effects and music in editing.

"Since then, I have developed my skills, finding the right music and stock Foley sounds to use in the sound mix. What was different with 'Sanctuary' was that, for the first time, as a filmmaker, I made nearly every element of the film. Almost every sound in the film is recorded and mixed by myself, the score included. It was an absolute blast."

Jury: “Technically not a script, but each person interviewed gets their point across clearly, and the film is amazingly easy to follow. Gives that perfectly tense, horror-movie feeling. Incredibly well-mixed, and the background music is a perfect fit. The film follows the Arlington mandate stay-at-home order. A young man’s criminal past catches up to him and exposes him to unforeseen danger.”

"The Michigan Arctic Grayling Initiative," a 20-minute documentary sponsored by YourArlington.com, named Best Documentary.

Filmmaker/co-directors Grace Bright and Grace Joo, adviser Adam Burns reported. The former handled the majority of the preproduction work, including writing, preinterviews, preparing interview questions and generally acting as the contact person for the project. The latter handled the majority of the film work, including camera operation and editing. The Troy Athens, Mich., high school grads attend Ohio State and Michigan State, respectively.

Joo had taken Troy Athens filmmaking class the previous year and had a lot of success with a previous film called "The Incident at the Pier," including NATAS Michigan Student Production Awards for short film and director, and a NATAS National Student Production Award nomination for director. The two girls are friends and wanted to work together, on a project that they hoped would attain similar success.

The spark for the film occurred, Burns wrote, when he stumbled on an advertisement for the Michigan Arctic Grayling Initiative in a free fishing guide. "I told the girls I thought it could be a really interesting project to work on, given that the topic was something happening in Michigan and (for Joo especially) that it was a very different project than what they had worked on before," he wrote.

"I thought it would be a five-minute overview, but they really got into it, and the story kept growing. We got to take a field trip up to Traverse City to interview most of the people in the film, and that was a really fun experience for all involved, and I think when they started to realize what the film could become because the people we interviewed were really excited to be involved."

The film was shown on PBS, and the initiative uses it as part of its promotional materials. The first stocking attempts will begin in 2024, and Burns says he hopes another student group will be excited to pick up this project then. He wrote:

"It has been awesome to see the reception and is a great model for students in my class now of how filmmaking can impact your community."

Jury: “This story, the reintroducing of Grayling fish to its former habitat is a very polished, stylized film. The directing, producing and storytelling are accomplished quite well ... good work.”

"ZOE," an 11-minute sci-fi/animation from Croatia by Marta Krunić, sponsored by YourArlington.com, was chosen Best Documentary.

Goran Šporčić, a teacher and mentor of the film group at primary school Stjepan Kefelja, in Kutina, Croatia, provided his personal response: "My son Fabian worked together with Marta on the script of the film and some parts of the camera. Fabian was at school with Marta, and they were my students.

Fabian: A force behind 'ZOE.'Fabian: A life force behind 'ZOE.'

"Fabian left us more than a month ago and went to some better, more beautiful world.

"When I got an email from [festival founders] April and Alberto, and I read the jury statement, I had a feeling like Fabian was texting us all. It meant a lot to me, and I was very affected.

"Fabian especially liked to put together movie scripts, and then we would talk about them together. The animated parts of 'ZOE' are his stories, as is the final scene.

"For me, 'ZOE' has a lot of symbolism. It’s as if the whole film is uttered from depths that words can’t reach."

Šporčić explained that Fabian was supposed to be the film's lead actor, but he didn't want to be, preferring to be behind the camera and making up stories.

The film is about a boy who finds glasses of alien origin that answer all his questions. It has its own soundtrack created in collaboration with the famed Croatian musician Dalibor Grubačević

At a film group meeting, two years ago, when the film was finished, those involved decided to give the film its name. Then, this month, a student in class said that "ZOE" means "life" in Greek. 

Awards: International Children’s Film Festival Bangladesh 2019, Best Film, Child filmmakers’ International Section; Highway 61 Film Festival 2019, Pine City, Minn., first-place winner, student short; Festival International de Cinema Escolar de Alvorada/Rio Grande do Sul Brazil, 2019; Shout America best cinematography; 2020 Garden State Film Festival, New Jersey, student-short winner; 2019 Lantern and Light International Children's Film Festival, Melbourne, Australia, Best Live Action 12-18.

Jury: “Everything from lighting, audio to cinematography is very well done. Foley and dialogue is in there with little to -- no background static, except when appropriate. Nothing is too loud or too quiet. Love the use of drone shots. A film that plays the role between dreams and reality, in a dimension unknown to man, a dimension on the verge of shadows, when a girl enters his life … her name is Zoe.”

YourArlington reached out to those involved in these films, but has not heard back. Should any respond, comments will be added:

"Ghostwriter (7 minutes): Tao Groves, Alex de Montbel, Alex Flamm, Jack Snead; Light House Studio, Charlottesville, Va., narrative, New England premiere.

Jury: “A very well-rounded film. Love the way this film does a comedic take on the elements of a haunting-clinking spoons for a metallic horror-movie sound, using small fan to blow pages around while scrolling on a phone. The film has many great moments.

Grand Jury Prize: Best of Festival; sponsored by Kumon, Arlington.

"Unmasked" (4 minutes): Sophia Quigley, Raw Arts Works Lynn, Mass., experimental, Boston premiere. 

Jury: “Good execution on an ambitious project. The cinematography makes the world you create pop. Sound and lighting are well done. The music and effects are great choice. Well done and congratulations. The cycle of mask and contradictions of human personalities is an interesting subject.” 

Grand Jury Prize: Best Experimental Sponsored by ACMi, Arlington.

"Dimitto" (5 minutes): Riley Foulk, Jago Gould, J Rea, Chloe Rodriguez, Gabriel Zakaib; Light House Studio, Charlottesville, Va.; experimental, New England premiere.

Jury: “This is a beautiful story, and every aspect of the film feels intentional from coloring to the movement of the actors. Loved the way the shots of the ‘happy place’ interlock with the real-world family.”

Grand Jury Prize: Best Experimental; sponsored by ACMi, Arlington.


2020: Arlington International Film Festival program

 


This news feature was published Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020, and updated Nov. 4, to add link to festival passes.

 
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