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Apodaca: Young moviemakers showcased at Newport festival

April 19, 2014|By Patrice Apodaca

Every year around this time the Newport Beach Film Festival brings together open-minded audiences eager for interesting new material with aspiring filmmakers who want their labors of love to be seen and appreciated.

Out of the entire weeklong festival, which begins Thursday, perhaps my favorite event is the Youth Film Showcase, which screens short films by moviemakers 18 years and younger. These films, like many of the young auteurs, can sometimes be a bit unpolished.

But they are always a revelation. They offer a peek at potential, a glimpse at promising young talent that might one day produce truly great art. Often working with budgets no greater than lunch money and casts and crew comprised of school friends and family members, these kids are able to produce nuggets of brilliance amid the amateurism that I always find a joy to behold.

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Over the years I've noticed some recurring themes. There are usually a few earnest documentaries. This year, for instance, there are a couple of films about old bombs that litter the countryside in Laos, often leading to tragedy.

I've also seen more than a few sly takes on the horror genre, with zombies and vampires and the like. Other times there have been homages to classic film genres and television shows, such as an entry I saw years ago that was a clever spoof of TV's "House."

Many of the films inevitably deal with issues that resonate with kids. Bullying, insecurity and feelings of alienation are common threads.

The 14 films in this year's showcase were selected from 136 submissions, said Leslie Feibleman, director of special programs and community cinema for the festival. Among this latest crop of entries she noticed a willingness to "push the boundaries" with ideas and camera techniques.

"We select films that demonstrate originality, unique perspectives, strong artistic merit and technical skill," she said. "We program films that entertain and films that will appeal to teen audiences."

This year's showcase, possibly the best I've seen so far, is decidedly skewed to the serious-minded. Though just a few minutes long, they pack a punch. A few are thoughtful reflections on the cost of society's increasing reliance on technology. One beautifully acted and composed film, "Paradigm," brought me to tears with its depiction of children reacting to their parents' estrangement. Another features a boy struggling with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

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