Every October, Chicago film fans look forward to the Chicago International Film Festival, the city’s longest-running festival featuring independent and international premieres. What many festival-goers don’t realize, however, is that the festival itself is just one program presented by the non-profit organization known as Cinema/Chicago.
Out of their downtown offices, Cinema/Chicago works year-round to present film screenings, festivals and events that makes great programming available to locals while putting the spotlight on artists and new work worthy of attention.
The organization’s annual CineYouth festival is a perfect example, and this year’s three-day event runs May 4-6 at Music Box Theatre. CineYouth’s unique approach to the film festival model is two-fold: for one, it exclusively presents short films created by filmmakers under the age of 22; second, it’s free.
The 2017 edition kicks off Thursday, May 4 with a Chicago premiere presentation of Sundance official selection My Entire High School is Sinking into the Sea. Also free (though an advanced RSVP is recommended to be sure you get in), the quirky animated film features the voice talents of Susan Sarandon, Lena Dunham, Jason Schwartzman and Maya Rudolph. A zippy 77 minutes, it’s a mixed-media animated feature that’s been likened to John Hughes for a new generation, as best friends and school paper writers Dash and Assaf navigate the twists and turns of high school, some of them less ordinary than others.
The best part of the festival, though, is the weekend programming. It’s on Friday and Saturday that CineYouth’s true talents shine, as over seventy short films from around the world by the most promising young filmmakers are presented. Organized into eleven programs (four on Friday, seven on Saturday), they range in theme from “Mind Games,” featuring chilling shorts that may spook, to “Happy Hour,” the festival’s family-friendly program.
And make no mistake about it: these films are made by kids, but they’re certainly not all for kids. Those filmmakers on the upper end of the age bracket may have already graduated high school or even college, and they’re not afraid to tackle tough subjects or experimental filmmaking. Over the course of two days, and without laying out a single penny for any of it, you can check out what these emerging voices have to say through the lens of their camera.
See the full CineYouth calendar and learn more about the featured films at Cinema/Chicago’s website here.