The kid stays in the picture

Forget the future, man. The children are our right now. They’re here to replace us, and they’re going to do it way sooner than you think. For filmed evidence catching them in the act, look to the Josiah Youth Media Festival, happening this week at Urban-15 Studio. The four-year-old festival — held in honor of Josiah Miles Neundorf, a local artist who died of bone cancer at the age of 20 in 2006 — showcases the work of filmmakers age 21 and younger, and, if you’re an artist of legal drinking age it’s serious cause to look over your shoulder. Several of this year’s offerings, selected from more than 100 entries from as far away as Iceland, could hold their own in just about any “grown-up” fest we’ve seen, and look out, honey, ’cause they’re using technology (even if they think “Search and Destroy” is a 30 Seconds to Mars song). Programs like San Francisco’s Bay Area Video Coalition and our own Say Sí give the young’uns (many — thanks to SA’s magnet-high-school film departments and St. Paul’s In Progress, which targets Minnesota’s indigenous population — from heretofore underrepresented racial and economic groups) have unprecedented access to digital film equipment and editing and animation software. If you’re the type who spends an afternoon figuring out how to change his Facebook profile picture, good luck keeping up with today’s teens.

Look at the first-place winner in the animation category, “El Violiniste,” from Harlandale High School’s Michael Esparza, for example. In less than three minutes, the film comments on artistic expression and the need for validation and reveals a preternatural gift for cinematic storytelling. Esparza, who also composed the soundtrack, created the elegantly simple animation by himself in Flash; once an animator would have taken weeks to draw something similar by hand.

Still not impressed? Watch “Haunted Playground,” from In Progress’s Bao Xing, which features 8-year-old actresses (the festival’s youngest entrants so far) and eerily impressive ghost effects (watch for the creepiest rendition of “Elmo’s Song” ever). Also creepy (and J-horror-inspired) is second-place narrative film “Dolly Wants a Minion,” from Lena Ozuna, Emmanuel Gallegos, Roger Vega, and Emily Hirschman at the newly established San Antonio School for Inquiry and Creativity. The special effects are minimal, and more obviously computer-enhanced, but the expert artistic direction — especially the use of color — gives the less-than-10-minute short a feature-film feel. “Dayaika,” the honorable-mention-earning narrative by Harlandale’s Genesis Gonzalez, is intentionally grittier looking — it’s basically the goreless lead-up to a sexually charged torture-porn film — but way more disturbing.

Not every kid’s into horror, of course, and several of the fest’s other entries hit just as hard regardless of genre — documentary, drama, or none of the above.

“DIRT,” a short experimental film by Maria Fernanda Chavez from the Northeast School of the Arts, is a jagged collage of jump-cuts, industrial music, and spoken-word poetry: It could practically be the first minute of an undiscovered Nine Inch Nails video. Equally adventurous in a wholly other way is In Progress student Savannah Parisian’s “I Am Anishinaabe,” the third-place experimental film, which reveals via nonlinear narrative and photo montage the compromise the titular indigenous people strike between progress and tradition in order to exist in the modern world. Similarly, honorable-mention documentary “Momo,” by Bay Area Video Coalition’s David Johnson, examines the lives of two Tibetan refugees surviving in Northern India by selling homemade vegetarian momos in an open-air marketplace, but it does so with no real narrative at all. The camera simply captures the couple’s daily ritual, a well-rehearsed routine that begins at 3 a.m. and requires minimal dialogue (none of which is translated) to complete, but the images are enthralling and informative in a way that words could never be. That’s been film’s true purpose since audiences first paid pocket change to watch a train arriving or a man sneezing, and Josiah offers proof it will be fulfilled for years to come, even if the old folks pack up their zoetropes and go home. •

Josiah Youth Media Festival
$7 daily ($4 students)
Thu, Jul 8-Sat, Jul 10
2500 S. Presa
(210) 736.1500

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