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Young filmmakers and media professionals have until April 28 to submit their body of work for inclusion in the Anacostia Youth Media Festival.
The Anacostia Youth Media Festival, a youth-directed event scheduled for May 19 and 20, will take place at the Anacostia Arts Center, the Go-Go Museum and Busboys & Poets in Southeast. Students converging on these spots will attend a film screening and awards ceremony. They will also have the chance to participate in a bevy of workshops about photography, podcasting, video gaming, and entrepreneurship.
Brigid Maher, a film producer and professor at American University, said she’s launching the inaugural festival to not only provide young people in Wards 7 and 8 a platform to showcase their original work, but strengthen the lines of communication between them and students at AU, located west of Rock Creek Park in Tenleytown.
“If students want to submit short fiction films, documentaries, or podcasts, we welcome all forms of expression,” Maher said. “The entries are open to all youth in D.C. We’re pleased to have a Curator’s Circle program, which is a program for youth in Wards 7 and 8. They will participate in the running of the festival [determining] how the films will be screened.”
Last year, Maher saw young people judging entries at the Minneapolis Saint Paul Film Festival, which she said inspired her to apply for a grant through the Humanities Council of Washington, D.C., so she could pursue a similar endeavor.
The Anacostia Youth Media Festival builds upon a program Maher, along with AU graduate students and alumni, hosted at Kramer Middle School in Southeast during the 2021-2022 school year. That collaboration manifested in the production of a music video that will premiere at a music festival. Maher has since participated in the 202Creates residency program, which led her to working with Ron Moten, the curator of the Go-Go Museum.
For the last two years, the main exhibit of the Go-Go Museum has been completed. Moten said the mobile museum should be launching within the next two months while construction on the brick-and-mortar museum will start by the late summer.
Moten, who’s serving as an ambassador of the Anacostia Youth Media Festival, has made the rounds at recent media trainings. Last week, 15 young people converged on Check-It Enterprises, the future site of the Go-Go Museum. During that session, Moten encouraged the young people to use their knowledge of social media productively.
For Moten, Maher’s mission has relevance at a time when he’s pushing young people to have more positive representation on social media.
“Hopefully the young people will produce quality films that give us a visualization of what they’re experiencing and what they want to see,” Moten said. “Their talent will open the door for future endeavors that enhance us even more. We also want more universities to partner with the community on projects like this. The young people have so much talent, but they’re using it in the wrong way. We got to reverse that through outlets like this.”
There are 100 available slots at the Anacostia Youth Media Festival for young people between the ages of 12 and 18 to submit work reflective of their post-COVID lives. Entries that qualify should be between three and seven minutes. In addition to the youth screening, the Minneapolis Saint Paul Film Society’s Next Wave Initiative partnered with the Anacostia Youth Media Festival on an event taking place on the weekend of May 19.
During the Curator’s Circle, young people will engage writer-director-filmmaker and Howard University (HU) professor Lalanya Abner in conversation about a diverse array of media they will watch together.
Others who are scheduled to join include actor Laz Alonzo, a D.C. native and Howard University alumnus, along with Gail Bean, an actress best known for her portrayal of Wanda Bell on FX’s Snowfall, and Philip Walker, chief of Recreation for All at the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation.
Abner, a protege of the late filmmaker John Singleton, credited Singleton for believing in her and sharpening her eye for quality film. In recounting how Singleton cast two of the actors from her Atlanta studio as leads on Snowfall and spoke with graduates of HU’s acting department, Abner added that Singleton trusted her judgment as a film professional.
That’s why, during the Anacostia Youth Media Festival, Abner plans to condense all that she has learned from Singleton into a lesson to benefit Ward 7 and Ward 8 students, who she called natural-born storytellers. This opportunity, Abner told The Informer, represents the fusing of Singleton’s spirit along with that of the late Marion Barry, who Singleton admired.
“I hope students develop a genuine love and passion for storytelling and understanding of its importance and power,” Abner said. “I’m bringing all that the great John Singleton taught me about film and storytelling to these young, formidable storytellers in Wards 7 and 8. We’ll watch a diverse genre of film [because] that’s something Singleton had me do. We would watch film incessantly and discuss angles, lighting, soundtrack, and acting — all aspects of storytelling.”