Movie News & Reviews

Teens take on issues large and small at film festival in Sacramento

A young man wonders what it’s like to drown in the short film “Two and a Quarter Minutes” by Costa Mesa teen Joshua Ovalle. Ovalle, 14, has two films in the 2015 Tower of Youth showcase.
A young man wonders what it’s like to drown in the short film “Two and a Quarter Minutes” by Costa Mesa teen Joshua Ovalle. Ovalle, 14, has two films in the 2015 Tower of Youth showcase. Tower of Youth

Bill Bronston praised the teen filmmakers in this year’s Tower of Youth film festival for their willingness to take on big issue from homelessness to genocide with some levity and comedy added to the mix.

The daylong showcase Friday at the Crest Theatre in Sacramento features five hours of short films submitted by young people from across the country. Each of the submitted films is then screened, dissected and scored by a panel of pizza-fueled teen jurors. Alex Greenlee, a budding filmmaker who attends Nathomas Charter, estimated the amount of pizza required for this process to be 6 tons.

Bronston, too, has high aspirations for the event and the impact of the organization behind it.

“My agenda is to change the school system,” said the Tower of Youth creator, who hopes to increase digital literacy among students.

Hundreds of students will attend the event as a school-sanctioned field trip. The festival, in its 19th year, also is open to the public.

Greenlee, 18, said Tower of Youth and its parent organization the Youth Broadcast and Media Association helped him go from someone dabbling with an old VHS machine to a young man who has completed a film.

His feature-length film “My Sunset Girl” was filmed through another Bronston program and has been submitted to several film festivals around the county. He said without a typical film crew of hundreds, massive creativity was required.

“This is independent filmmaking at its greatest. It was fun to take the resources we had and adapt to the situation,” Greenlee said.

Bronston said the bigger challenge is bringing digital literacy to the young people who don’t have video, audio, graphic arts, coding, and programming available to them. Just 10 percent of area schools have a media program, he estimates.

“Nobody is talking about the fact that schools aren’t teaching 21st century skill sets,” Bronston said. “It’s scandalous.”

Sid Akbar was one of Bronston’s students before embarking on a stint as a working video journalist. These days, he’s teaching the next generation as the multimedia teacher at Grant High School.

“We live in this world now where digital literacy is so vital,” Greenlee said. “Even if you are going into business or agriculture you still have to be digitally literate in today’s environment.”

Ed Fletcher: 916-321-1269, @NewsFletch

Tower of Youth Film Showcase

When: Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Where: Crest Theatre, 1013 K Street

What: 40 of the country’s best youth films and address from industry speaker, Max Timm, of the International Screenwriters Association.

Cost: $10 youth, $15 adult

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