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Film matters

Young filmmakers are up to some good
By ERIN ENBERG  |  July 6, 2006

What did you do last night? Would you believe a friend who told you, “I was up all night editing a short video piece about utilizing poetry as a means to change the youth culture of the world?” You just might have to believe it, especially when the SPACE Gallery will be presenting the Media that Matters Film Festival Thursday, July 13.

Each of the films in the collection are no more than eight minutes long and address a range of controversial issues — from religious freedom to criminal justice. Every June, 16 new films are chosen for the festival, online viewing, and DVD distribution to activists and schools. Most intriguing, however, is the fact that most of the filmmakers aren’t even legal drinking age, and the topics and ideas relate to communities everywhere. Yes, even here.

For instance, Slip of the Tongue, directed by Karen Lum, is a four minute, carefully choreographed narrative about the pressure placed upon young women in this country regarding body image, all synchronized with lyrical movement by a slam poem from the point of view of a young man trying to hit on her (Karen also stars in it). What begins as a surface attraction for him, ends as pure respect. A unique live audio track, with audience cheers, adds to the momentum. Karen’s got strength and sass and changes the relations between women and cameras.

Another young woman, Kiri Davis, directs A Girl Like Me, a series of commentaries from young black women — still in high school — about the stereotypes they have to struggle to dismantle every day. Living in a state that’s lacking in racial diversity (but working on it), can make it hard to fully grasp racial issues without taking on the perspective of the outsider—but Kiri helps us to see, in seven minutes, her relevant and poignant point of view. The young women in her film are articulate and her pacing is key in explaining her message. She even re-creates the test used during the monumental de-segregation court case Brown vs. Board of Education, where children were asked to choose between a white doll and a black doll.

A few others, that were produced by a slightly older than twenty-one crowd include a local community in Michigan protesting the Wal-Mart that was built on a wetland, in How Wal-Mart Came to Haslett. In another, a young documentary filmmaker speaks openly about corporate ownership and its effects on public access to information — especially the crippling financial implications for documentary filmmakers and others interested in revealing historical and current events with clarity and truth in Eyes on the Fair Use of the Prize by Jacob Caggiano. Also tapping into a highly debated issue here in Maine is Garance Burke and Monica Lam’s The Rules of the Game, a look at the prospect of an Indian casino in Rohnert Park, California, and the conflict that arises in the community because of it.

The festival began with a world premiere in New York City and now you can view the 16 “chosen ones” at the SPACE Gallery. It’s a slap in the face by some young, aspiring filmmakers to take notice of the problems in this country on a national and local level, and a look at the people who are already making a difference by addressing them.

Media That Matters Film Festival | SPACE Gallery, in Portland | July 13 | 7:30 p.m. | $6

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