Young people are physically capable of things older people are not.

When David Lynch was 20 years old, he created the minute-long animated short Six Men Getting Sick for $200 and premiered it at his college's end-of-the-year gallery exhibition.

Five years later, Lynch started what would become the drawn-out production process for his masterpiece Eraserhead, partially funding it with paychecks from the Wall Street Journal (he delivered papers). Everybody's got to start somewhere, right?

Nowadays, thanks to the National Film Festival for Talented Youth, such first exposures might go down in a state-of-the-art theater like Seattle's gorgeous Cinerama, in front of a packed and rapturous audience. NFFTY is the largest youth film festival in the world, this year featuring more than 200 works, all of them by people 22 years of age or younger. Following are not-to-be-missed highlights of the festival from directors you will hear about again.

Shuffleboard Kings

dir. Chris Aitken

At 73 years old, Bert is the kind of grandfather we all dream about. Despite bereavement and massive indigestion, he's still up for meeting his granddaughter at her favorite dive bar, where he'll be subjected to her stoner boyfriend's new band, which "is way prog in terms of the metal scene." Bert is also a natural at the shuffleboard table. When he and his well-seasoned team of oldsters challenge the young overconfident jerks of the Whippersnappers (yes, that's their team name) to a shuffleboard showdown, Shuffleboard Kings turns into an adrenaline-packed sports saga with a bittersweet ending. Taking its cues from The Big Lebowski in combining silly and serious to delicious effect, the first film by 21-year old Chris Aitken is an impressive effort, with spot-on dialogue, timing, and sound effects. (Opening Night Gala, Thurs April 26, Cinerama, 7:30 pm)

It Ain't Over

dir. Caleb Slain

Caleb Slain's short The Lost and Found Shop won the NFFTY audience award in 2011, and he returns this year with It Ain't Over, a spare documentary that begins with footage of Dr. Edward Dobson speaking at a Christmas festival in 1999—a physically different person than the one this film gives us intimate access to as he fights Lou Gehrig's disease more than a decade later. The film's pace—set by Dobson's narration, combined with an artistic use of lighting, music, and imagery—is haunting and unsettling, ultimately ending on a hopeful note. In 10 minutes, this compelling short accomplishes more than movies 10 times as long. "Caleb Slain's artful efforts make cinema verité look like a lush feature production," crows local film critic Warren Etheredge. A young filmmaker with notable restraint is a young filmmaker to watch. (Centerpiece Gala, Sat April 28, SIFF Cinema at the Uptown, 8 pm)


dir. Ginevra Boni

With its ensnared children, black yeti creature made of crows, and desolate landscape lit with languid flames, Ginevra Boni's first animated short immediately reminded me of Tim Burton's Vincent, made in the early '80s after he left Disney. Using stop-motion and puppets, Boni's film is as charming as it is macabre, with both qualities emphasized by sexy saxophone and piano playing original music by Francesco Ghersina and Giulio Ammendola. (Opening Night Gala, Thurs April 26, Cinerama, 7:30 pm)

Da Capo

dir. Julien Budorovits

Already a YouTube sensation with nearly half a million views, JuBaFilms' Da Capo is a science-fiction film most notable for its surreal imagery and special effects. The film follows the dream a young man with a futuristic haircut is having, which involves spinning upside down on unruly surfaces (the kids call it breakdancing). A mysterious voice narrates, describing metaphysical ideas that work surprisingly well with the film's crazy breakdancing moves. (Opening Night Gala, Thurs April 26, Cinerama, 7:30 pm) recommended