SIFF’s FutureWave Expands the Role of Teens in the Film Community

by Naomi

We’ve all seen movies. We all have our opinions. But who would think that a teenager’s opinion of movies could impact anything? Seattle International Film Festival’s FutureWave program gives teens just that opportunity—for their opinions to matter and be taken seriously in the world of film.

SIFF’s FutureWave program allows youth to participate in the reviewing process of movies playing at the festival. For the 2015 festival, seven FutureWave Youth Jury members, 13-18 years old, viewed eight predetermined films and then deliberated to decide which would be awarded as Best FutureWave Feature, taking all aspects of the contending films, from plot to cinematography to acting, into their deliberations. The teen jurors were even invited to attend the Golden Space Needle Awards brunch at the top of the Space Needle to present the award.

This year’s pick for Best FutureWave Feature was Seoul Searching by director Benson Lee. Inspired by John Hughes’ themes, as seen in The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Seoul Searching revolves around kids from all over the world attending a summer camp in South Korea to reconnect with their roots. Already assimilated into their own cultures, they are a bit hard to control.

Dustin Kaspar, the Educational Programs Manager at SIFF, oversees the FutureWave program and other youth programs, including Films4Families, a program similar to FutureWave, for ages 8-12. FutureWave serves as “an access point for high school and college audiences who may be interested in the festival, but don’t know which films they might like,” explained Kaspar. It gives students a good place to start.

As for the FutureWave Jury, the jurors were very diverse. There were jurors who watch movies religiously and those who only see them once in a while. There were those who write, make movies, or even act in them. The most important quality of every juror, however, is that they all appreciate film, and what it does for the community. As Kaspar puts it, “SIFF deepens the community by creating shared experiences that make us all more informed, aware, and alive.”

While there were only eight films in the running for Best FutureWave Feature, countless films of this year’s festival were suited for teen audiences and should be sought out come their official release dates. The eight FutureWave films were chosen by Kaspar and the FutureWave Committee, a group of 12 youth ages 15-20 working together to promote awareness and access of films in the community. The films included Golden Space Needle Best Director Award-winning Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and Romeo is Bleeding, which won the Golden Space Needle Best Documentary Award.

Though the festival is over, many of the films will be distributed in theaters later in the year. Guidance, a film about a washed up child actor pretending to be a guidance counselor, is due to hit theaters in August. And A Brilliant Young Mind, a film following the path of a young autistic mathlete, and The Wolfpack, a documentary following a group of brothers locked in their Manhattan apartment, will hit theaters in the months following.
Other opportunities provided by SIFF for teens interested in film, in addition to the FutureWave Jury and Committee, include the Crash Student challenge, in which teams compete to make a film in eight hours, and this summer’s Steal That Shot series, in which youth recreate famous scenes from famous films.

Kaspar states that SIFF is continuously expanding its education department so that year-round youth have more opportunities within the film world. “My biggest hope is that teens will see one of the films in FutureWave and realize that ‘there are films made outside of the Hollywood marketing machine (foreign or American independents) that are of interest to me.’”

FutureWave and SIFF’s other teen programs create an environment that “deepen[s] appreciation of the art of cinema across all generations,” according to Kaspar. Let’s hope that SIFF continues its good work in making Seattle’s youth aware of film opportunities and experiences, as it is an awareness that is beneficial to us all.

Seattle International Film Festival 2015 ran May 16 - June 6, but SIFF shows films of interest to teens all year-long. Check out their screening schedule and FutureWave programming for more opportunities.

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