You smell that? No, not the early morning chill or your neighbor smoking their midday joint. That smell is peak film festival season.

Today is the first day of the National Film Festival for Talented Youth (NFFTY) as they pivot to virtual-only due to the pandemic. The local fest highlights shorts by directors 24 and under from across the country, running through November 1.

Their programming is extensive this year—234 films in 30 program showcases—in addition to live events like watch parties, filmmaker Q&As, workshops, etc., which NFFTY will record and make available after the fact. The movies are available to stream (internationally!) whenever you want during the ten days; you have 48 hours to watch after unlocking the showcase of your choice.

For The Stranger’s NFFTY roundup, we decided to focus on their Pacific Northbest showcase, featuring young directors from our neck of the woods. Here are three of our favorites from the block:

Seattle, WA; 13 minutes 37 seconds; dir. Brendan Hickey
courtesy of nffty

There was no way I wasn't going to like this finely crafted short about culturally savvy Seattle teens throwing a house show. It's got an excellent shot of Fremont Peak Park, the Best Little Park in Seattle. It's hard to take a good shot at this spot, as anyone who's tried to take a photo from this lookout knows, and this team gets it right. In general, the mood here is really right: a group of queer teens bumbles around Seattle, drinking Pog and listening to Hunx and His Punx. The references are fresh. The pacing is idiosyncratic. I was wholeheartedly delighted by this. Make it a series, thanks. CHASE BURNS

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Seattle, WA; 13 minutes 49 seconds; dir. Nifemi Madarikan
Headless Into Night explores our relationship to the divine and tradition.
Courtesy of NYFFTY
Headless into Night, directed by Seattle-based Nifemi Madarikan, is full of symbols and feeling. Drawing influence from Julie Dash's germinal 1991 film Daughters of the Dust, the short explores the tension between Western tradition and African diasporic belief and heritage. Ifelayo (Adera Gandy) is sent on a divine mission by her god-fearing father to confront the witchy Night Mothers next door. But she quickly finds herself welcomed by the mystical community, learning to question her own beliefs taught to her by her father. The film beautifully intersects disparate traditions to create its own visual language—Judith beheading Holofernes in the Bible serves as much inspiration as the cowrie shells used as divination charms in the African diaspora. Headless Into Night is a trippy watch that underscores the importance of community building and Black cultural heritage and beliefs. JASMYNE KEIMIG

Eugene, OR; 10 minutes 27 seconds; dir. Miles Dixon
courtesy of nffty

This exceptionally tender and fast-paced short follows a young, nervous filmmaker who prepares to say goodbye to his best friend before he moves across the country. The Days Are Just Packed reflects its name: its tight ten-minutes pack in a dizzying amount of scenes—but director Miles Dixon's compounding, empathetic scenes work, stirring up the rush of late-teen years. The pacing feels controlled, and Dixon (a Young Arts finalist) stages some scenes so wonderfully they feel classical. I'm thinking about one scene, in particular, filmed under a tree. Dixon didn't classify this as an LGBTQ+ film, but LGBTQ+ audiences will find queer themes here. CHASE BURNS