CAS Juniors Curate Fourteenth Annual Screenagers Festival

By Aliza Levin

Photo by Zoe O'Rorke

On February 11, the 14th Annual Screenagers Film and Video Festival took place at the Pacific Film Archive in downtown Berkeley. Students from high schools all over the Bay Area submitted films that they had produced and directed, which were then curated by Communication Arts and Sciences (CAS) juniors from Berkeley High School. One curator, Samantha Serrano, explained, “I facilitate the question and answer session at the end of the show. I really enjoyed putting together the videos. The entire show is a sequence of emotions and it was fun to watch it unfold.”

“Every Wednesday we were here, working hard, picking the films to use, deciding the line–up, meeting with the film makers and putting the whole show together,” Nichelle Proctor, another curator, said. The CAS students applied for this opportunity through an internship specifically for CAS students which began in October of 2011. They also gain the oppurtunity to work side by side with Mahaliyah Ayla O, a UC Berkeley student who is studying the art of curating.
Screenagers is the only film festival in the Bay Area with films made by high school students. This experience gives young students the oppurtunity to expose their work to an audience outside their friends, classmates, and family. “They’re opened up for constructive criticism, positive feedback, for the wider world to see their thoughts,” said Dharini Rasiah, one of the founders of Screenagers and film teacher in CAS.

“Once it gets to Screenagers or any other film festival, the kids take their work a lot more seriously. They are always shocked that anyone cares about their stuff, and I think that’s a good experience,” she continued. “The curators are very empowered with their position, because they get to screen works from around the area, and they know that it’s prestigious. So they definitely feel a sense of pride to participate. I think this [festival] showcases the teenage experience, a really wide range of experiences. It’s not just what you see on the news about teenagers. Teenage work is really spontaneous, and more fresh, not as caught up in intellectual theory,” Rasiah concluded.

The festival this year included films from the Oakland School of the Arts, as well as Berkeley, Woodside, Burlingame, Campolindo, Albany, and San Ramon Valley High Schools. The videos were composed of variety of topics ranging from death and loss to sports to just general issues that teenagers face day to day.

One video described the death of the filmmaker’s cousin entitled “Happy Birthday.” It went through the birthday of her cousin as if he were still alive and ended with them going to his cemetery together and him disappearing into the grave site. Many of the overall themes were as heavy as that one, but another video entitled, “1–800–IH8–FOULS” was about mistakes one doesn’t want to make when at a party, otherwise known as “party fouls.”

Victor Anguiano, a senior at Woodside High School in Redwood City, created his film about the daily life of a soccer player. It was set to the song “Waka Waka” by Shakira. “My film teacher told me about the program and told me to submit something, so I did. I got lucky because not everybody who submits gets it in the festival. The whole video took about two and a half months to produce,” Angiano explained.

“I actually made my video for a college admission tape to get into the film program at Chapman University,” Samuel Crossley, a senior at Campolindo High School in Moraga. “The film is about me as a child; I used to have lemonade stands to make money to buy cameras so I could take pictures. I was really into photography and now I’m into film–making,” Crossley explained. To prepare for the project, he wrote seven different screenplays in two months, filmed it in one day, and edited it for one week. The production team also included three other people, plus the actor.

“Over the years more high school video programs have been created, so the amount of films submitted has increased. Technology has become more accessible and so as a result, the films quality has gotten better too,” Rasiah said regarding how festival has changed over the last fourteen years. “More filmmakers actually show up to see the show now too, but the audience consists of mostly filmmakers and parents. I wish more students would come,” she commented.

“All of the filmmakers were very talented and it was interesting to see what high schoolers can make with a camera,” commented Sophie Varon, a Berkeley High sophomore.

“In general, the festival is important for filmmakers to see the audience reactions at film festivals, because if the films stay on the shelf, no one can benefit,” concluded Rasiah.