NFFTY Opens With Passion, Excellence, and Innovation

Review of Opening Night Films at NFFTY by Audrey Cooper

On Thursday night, filmmakers and art fans flocked to the Opening Night Gala of the National Film Festival for Talented Youth (NFFTY). This annual film festival, hosted in downtown Seattle, brings together international filmmakers ages 7-22 in order to cultivate the next generation of film talent. NFFTY presents films filled with passion, excellent visual design, and an innovative spirit. The films showcased at the Opening Gala of NFFTY 2014 were compelling and well-made, eliciting both tears and laughter from the audience.The following films are just a few highlights from the evening.

Dave’s Wild Life, directed by UK filmmaker Samuel de Ceccatty, captures the essence of what it means to live a passionate life. Dave would love to be a naturalist, and he keeps with pride a little leather journal full of diagrams and drawings of urban creatures (such as the “London Hipster”). Between Dave’s self-conscious grins and head-bobbing, you can’t help but smile. (Major shout-out to Stuart Benson for a fantastic portrayal of Dave and his endearing awkwardness.) From the outside, Dave’s life appears uneventful and mundane. But Dave lives his life to the fullest, armed with an infectious grin and creative perspective. His imagination makes life a worthwhile adventure. The film raises the question, “Do you live your life with as much passion as Dave?”

In Lost Dog, Vanessa Pantley examines how we deal with pain and loss. A heroin addict stumbles out of the drug house where his friend lies dead into a park in search of money for a fix. He is overwhelmed by his grief and by his need. However, a chirpy young boy with a curly orange mop of hair soon joins him on a park bench, clutching a “Lost Dog” poster. The boy befriends the man and enlists his help on a mission to do a good deed and find the lost dog, Puddin’head. As they search for “man’s best friend,” the addict is forced to face his sadness about the death of his own friend. Then Puddin’head appears, panting and drooling all over the despairing addict. In the middle of his grief, he is presented with an unsolicited journey, and the audience is left wondering how it may change his life. How can you connect with people who are grieving? How do you respond to an unexpected adventure?

Sean Drummond directed Shadow Dancing as a tribute to his grandmother. Exploring the nature of age and youth, this film artfully portrays the experience of recalling a memory. A young woman sits in a wheelchair, alone in an apartment filled with boxes and vintage furniture. She finds a VHS tape, which plays a recording of her dancing in a studio. Her lithe shadow reflects on the wall. Painfully, she stands up out of her wheelchair and begins to dance. Two delivery men stand outside. They knock, but when they don’t receive a response, they peer inside the house. Through their eyes, we see a grandmotherly woman dancing alone, with her young shadow. She dances with her eyes closed, experiencing the memory of her youth. And finally, she sits, contented and peaceful as her shadow returns to its rightful place. As a young person, what memories are you making today? What stories will your shadows tell?

Representing 30 U.S. states and 15 countries, the young filmmakers of NFFTY are bursting with passion, innovation, and excellent ideas. Stop by the SIFF Cinema Uptown this weekend and get ready to be inspired.

April 24 - 27

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