If nations were judged on the quality of their kid-friendly film festivals, NFFTY 2014 would have the United States smelling like an organic rose. The latest edition of NFFTY—that's the National Film Festival for Talented Youth—gathers films from 30 US states and 15 countries, including Australia, Germany, Egypt, South Africa, Singapore, and India. All of the films are made by directors age 22 and younger (the youngest of whom is 7 years old), and a full 40 percent of them are female. Running April 24 through 27 at Cinerama (site of the opening-night gala) and SIFF Cinema Uptown (host to all other festival screenings), this year's NFFTY lineup can be investigated in full at nffty.org. For now, here are some brief reviews of selected NFFTY shorts.
In this expertly dreamlike dramatic short, 21-year-old director Michael Kefeyalew captures on film an eternal memory being made. Our subject is a young boy who we meet at a birthday party in the park, where he springs around a bouncy house, asks his mother for ice cream, and gawks listlessly at the other children. Then his mother drives him home—a trip that takes them past a tragic scene. The realization of this scene fills the rest of this elliptical short, which manages the brilliant trick of feeling like an endlessly recalled memory, even on first viewing.
Dave's Wild Life
Borrowing the conventions of the didactic nature film, Dave's Wild Life, made by 22-year-old UK director Samuel de Ceccatty, tracks a socially awkward man who drifts through his days dreaming of his own wildlife show, cataloging his everyday encounters like an expert naturalist. Actor Stuart Benson captures the charming oafishness of a Nick Park animation with his actual human face.
On a hot summer day, 8-year-old Debbie finds herself suddenly befriended by a strange man who drives a shiny convertible and is accompanied by a scantily clad woman, who mostly spends her time zipping in and out of the cars of strange men. Over the course of a lazy hour, the pimp takes Debbie for a ride, dropping her at home full of tidbits of pimpy wisdom. Was this the first step of the pimp's grooming process? Or is Debbie a fledgling Clarice Starling, en route to an adulthood spent battling human trafficking? Twenty-two-year-old director Lauren Brinkman gives no answers, but the mystery she leaves us with is impressive.
NFFTY 2014 runs April 24–27 at Cinerama and SIFF Cinema Uptown. For a full schedule of films, see nffty.org.