The coldest day in Boston thus far this winter, and for the past few winters (January 16), turned out to be a wonderful day that shimmered with the voices of young filmmakers.
Because I was the Youth Outreach Coordinator for the Boston screenings of YOUTH PRODUCING CHANGE, at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, I wrung my hands on Thursday morning, then tossed and turned on Thursday night, getting very little sleep. I’d succeeded in helping fill Remis Auditorium with school groups – I even had a waiting list. (Although by the time I was informed on Thursday morning that one principal was canceling the trip, I couldn’t get a school from the waiting list to attend because of the late notice.) I worried that other school groups would cancel because of the weather.
I was most concerned about the evening showing. The representative from the Human Rights Watch in NYC and I made the mistake of checking in daily to see how many tickets had sold and ticket sales were lackluster at best. (We had set a certain goal for # of tickets for the evening show and the tickets were well below that.)
Planning for single-day events is not for the faint-of-heart. It matters little how much one publicizes, how great or worthy the event, how lovely and accessible the vehicle, you just don’t know who will show up. And weather – weather can kill an event! You can lose an audience because of snow, ice, cold, torrential rains or because it is the first warm and sunny day after a hard winter and people don’t want to come to an indoor event.
I reminded myself that people are now more prone than ever to buy tickets the day of and just before an event. This meant that the # of sales we had boded well for us to reach our audience goal…but then again, maybe not. The single digit temperatures were not in our favor, hence both me and my NY colleague/boss were anxious.
It turns out that it takes more than frigid weather to keep Bostonians from such an important event. (Only one other, small school group canceled so the auditorium was 3/4s full for the morning screening.) The evening screening was NEAR CAPACITY!
Boston turned out to see the 9 films, produced by youth from all around the globe who were under the age of 19 at the time of their films. The films were shown as part of the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival in collaboration with founding present Adobe Youth Voices.These films are the crème de la crème, having been selected from a pool of 250 entries.
Five of the filmmakers attended the screening, including two filmmakers from Boston, Rene Dongo* (award-winning filmmaker) and spoken word artist, Sofia Snow.** Both graduated from Boston Latin Academy in 2007 and both hail from Roslindale. The other filmmakers who attended the Boston screenings hailed from Kentucky and from Brooklyn. All currently attend college.
The films covered such human rights issues as child labor, women’s rights, indigenous rights and the persecution faced by indigenous communities after the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States. Shown first in NYC, Youth Producing Change will go on to screen in San Francisco and London in March. I wish I could attend those screenings to meet the other young filmmakers personally. They are so dynamic, with the freshness, directness and wisdom of youth. I know that the students in the audience were inspired and educated by the films’ subject matter and the filmmakers.
It is so important to learn when you are young that each of us has a voice, a culture, ideas and values that should be heard in this world. Having outlets like film festivals, especially ones of this caliber, are critical to nurturing emerging filmmakers and film aficionados.
The films are available on DVD. The call for submissions for the second year of the festival has just closed, however, given the response of film-goers in New York and Boston, I am sure that this program will have legs and continued support from Adobe for many years.
I am pleased to have been a part of the festival and I am heartened by the activism of these young filmmakers.
*Rene Dongo produced his film as part of the Fast Forward program at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston. (Another film he produced while in Fast Forward, won an award at the Roxbury Film Festival during my tenure as Director of ACT Roxbury & RFF.)
**Sofia Snow’s first published poem was printed in the Roxbury Literary Annual and she participated in the Roxbury Literary Annual Creative Writing Camp (during my tenure as director of ACT Roxbury).