Albany’s award winning Youth FX teen filmmaking program will host the premiere of their 2014 short films at 6:30pm on Thursday March 24th at Spectrum 8 Theater. The screening will feature world premieres of 12 brand new short films created by teens from the city of Albany during their 2015 six-week summer program
This year’s slate of Youth FX films take a deep look at issues of race, juvenile justice, bullying, modern day communication, hopes and dreams of refugee youth living in Albany. The bulk of the films were produced as part of the 2015 Youth FX summer program where 38 young people ages 14-22 explored the technical and creative aspects of filmmaking and digital media. Youth FX will also debut its first full length album at the event, which features 10 tracks of original music that was produced during the program.
Films premiering will include five new narrative shorts including Guilt Trip, a one take tale of two cousins who face a dilemma after committing a crime to help their grandfather, Shot, a provocative look at racial profiling of black youth, Manhunt, a dark glimpse at the consequences of bullying, A Moment Ago, a clever time-travel comedy, Brothers, a dramatic unraveling of family secrets and the first ever Youth FX animated short. New documentaries explore juvenile justice through the lens of the local Marquis Dixon case (Marquis), a raw and honest look at bullying (Finding Strength), and stories of refugee youth (Sara & Say Blu).
One Youth FX film screening at the premiere, Make It Float, will be getting additional exposure next month at the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival (TFF). A collaboration between Youth FX filmmaker Aden Suchak and Albany High School fashion designer Taofeek Abijako, the documentary was one of 5 films, out of 250 submissions nationwide, selected to screen at the festival as part of The America I Am, a new TFF youth program in partnership with The Statue of Liberty National Monument.
Make It Float, is a cinematic profile of Abijako, a 17 year-old immigrant from Nigeria, who shares his dream of becoming a fashion while telling the story of his family’s journey to Albany. As one of the finalists, Suchak was awarded a $1000 production budget and will be paired up with award-winning documentary filmmaker Yoruba Richen (The New Black, Out in the Night), to re-imagine and refine the film for it’s red-carpet premiere on April 21st at Tribeca Film Festival. The winning film will be awarded a $10,000 prize package which includes a $5000 college scholarship and $5000 in film gear.
“It’s a dream for me to have this opportunity,” said Suchak, “to work with someone like Youruba and to have this film be seen at Tribeca is huge break for me and incredible exposure for Taofeek’s fashion and design.” Suchak, a Free School and Albany Graduate, is currently pursuing journalism and documentary studies at UAlbany, while Abijako hopes to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology or Pratt College after he graduated from Albany High School this June.
It has been a busy and exciting year for Youth FX since premiering their last batch of films at the Spectrum in March 2015. Films from the program have screened at more than 30 festivals across the country taking top honors at LA Film Festival, Harlem International Film Fest, Rockland Youth Film Fest, Ballston Spa International Film Fest, winning best documentary and audience award locally at St. Rose’s 15 Minute Max Film Festival. This past fall many students from the program were also invited to work on the set of As You Are, the locally produced indie feature written and directed by by Albany bred filmmaker Miles Joris-Peyrafitte, which went on to will Special Jury Prize at this years Sundance Film Festival.
Youth FX director Bhawin Suchak credits the youth who have grown alongside with the program as one of the keys to success. “We have three incredible young leaders, Darian Henry, Rashid Howell and Majestic Tillman who are founding youth members of the program and are now helping to run the program,” says Suchak, “they help to create an environment full of peer to peer learning and foster a culture of high expectations.”
“I am particularly interested in filmmaking as a tool for transformation and as a vehicle for social change,” says Henry, who is now in development on her first feature documentary. “To me Youth FX is a rare example of a place where we’re trusted to have a vision, are provided the tools and guidance and given the freedom to create.”
Tillman who has been a lead actor in many of the award-winning Youth FX films, wrote and directed his first film this past summer. “Writing and directing my first film after being solely an actor for so long, was a test of my leadership skills,” he added, “it was also an eye-opening experience that showed me how much talent we have developed within the program.”
Suchak, who has taught at The Free School for 16 years, emphasizes that Youth FX is about trust and creating a community of artists who aren’t afraid to take risks and tell their stories. “These kids are deep, they think critically, and they aren’t afraid to speak their truth.” He adds, “The films you’ll see on the screen are a direct reflection of their lives and experiences and the unique way they see the world around, we’re about providing the space for them to bring those stories to life.”
Youth FX has has seen incredible success and growth over its eight years in existence, which led to their recent transition from a program of Grand Street Community Arts, into a full-fledged independent organization. In addition to the six-week summer program, Youth FX now offers year round programming at Albany High School, and Albany Public Library. The partnership with the high school has flourished, in part due to collaborations with Youth FX teaching artists Noelle Gentile and Gaetano Vaccaro, both of whom work at the high school.
This May Youth FX will also launch a new 4-Day residential program for emerging documentary filmmakers called NeXt Doc. In partnership with the Carey Institute for Global Good in Rensselarville, who will provide food and logging, and workshop facilities for all participants at their 100 acre campus, NeXt Doc will bring 15 youth filmmakers together with award-winning filmmakers from New York City for an intensive that aims to take their skills to the next level. Selected filmmakers will have the opportunity chance to work with acclaimed oscar-nominated director Sam Pollard (4 Little Girls, When The Levees Broke, Eyes On The Prize), Iva Radivojevic (Evaporating Borders) and Tom Jennings (producer of PBS’ Frontline Series).
Howell, who is a junior at St. Rose studying New Media and Communication, says the growth has been staggering, but is also a reflection of how necessary Youth FX is. “I feel that what Youth FX accomplishes is showing young people that they are so many different ways to express yourself and to be outspoken, and then to teach them how to make their voice heard through film and media.”
There will be a Q & A with Youth FX filmmakers after the screening and tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students. All proceeds raised from the screening will support the 2016 Youth FX summer program. More information about the program and our screening can be found on the Youth FX website (http://www.youthfx.org/). Many Youth FX films from years past can be viewed online on our Youth FX Vimeo (http://vimeo.com/youthfx).