Review of NFFTY Opening Gala by Rachel T.

NFFTY…is there some dignified way of saying that that doesn’t sound like nifty? I wonder to myself as I enter the Cinerama with friend in tow. The whole place is set up like a mini version of the Oscars, with a hard-to-miss red carpet, photographers squeezing off shots of all the action, reporters scurrying around with microphones, extremely swanky clothes and free Vitamin Waters by the bucketful. I realize as I step into the world of NFFTY, or The National Film Festival for Talented Youth, that the amazing opportunities the organization provides deserve nothing less than an Oscar-esque opening night.

NFFTY, which started 5 years ago, has grown drastically since its humble 2007 beginning as a 1-night festival with 14 films. This year, it showed 225 films (chosen from 700 submissions) with filmmakers from 40 US states and 20 countries and lasted 4 days. It is now the largest youth film festival in the world. Now that’s progress. Its goal is to give the opportunity to today’s teens to become the talented filmmakers of tomorrow by allowing their work to be seen by thousands.

I get to be one of those thousands as the room goes black and silence breaks over the audience. Six films flash over the screen in the next forty-five minutes. They range from hilarious to heartbreaking to adrenaline-pumping to uplifting.

There’s the eerie animated Stop, Rewind, the tale of a murderer recruited as a test subject for an experimental machine. I’m on edge throughout. The Archivist artistically follows a girl and her ponderings on how stock footage came to be. Departure is bluntly realistic, as a young girl discovers a feather that she knows must be from her mother’s angel wing, while her father has other ideas. The Passage relies heavily on stunning special effects to illustrate a boy breaking free of the limbo between reality and fantasy. Signs is a close-to-home piece, done by Ballard High School students Rikke Heinecke, Tony Meyer, and Elizabeth O'Laughlin, featuring a homeless man’s life changed when a stranger gives him something much more special than a handful of pennies. The Lost and Found Shop straddles the line between comedy and tearjerker, chronicling a little girl in search of her favorite memory.

For me, what’s amazing about all these pieces is the emotion and intensity they are able to convey considering the limited time they have (the longest of the aforementioned works was 10 minutes). Then there’s the fact that all of these films were done by youth ages 11-22. NFFTY allows young adults to shine and show the world what they’re capable of. Age is meaningless in this equation.

NFFTY 2011 is over, but you can watch films and learn about the opportunities that NFFTY creates for young filmmakers all year round at

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