SYS-CON MEDIA Authors: Jim Kaskade, Yeshim Deniz, Elizabeth White, Greg Ness, Sean Houghton

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Teen-Produced Films Showcased at 3rd Annual Chicago Youth Film Festival 'A Reel Look at their Neighborhoods (Reel Look)'

Films Give Authentic Voice to Real-life Issues Facing Chicago Students

CHICAGO, May 25 /PRNewswire/ -- The 3rd Annual Chicago Youth Community Film Festival, "A Reel Look at their Neighborhoods (Reel Look)," awards presentation and film screening was held Monday, May 24th at the Claudia Cassidy Theatre at the Chicago Cultural Center. The event showcased 38 winning films from 290 Chicago students who had dropped out of high school and have re-enrolled back into small, community-based high schools.

The films were developed in classes taught by Community TV Network video instructors and sponsored by the Alternative Schools Network. This year, 11 alternative schools participated in the Film Festival.

"'Reel Look' gives Chicago dropout youth who have come back to school the opportunity to share their stories to a wide and varied audience about the issues they live and face each day," said Jack Wuest, executive director of the Alternative Schools Network. "The Festival also enables these youth to develop the skills and techniques to become filmmakers and work from behind the camera as successful producers, directors and editors."

Using state-of-the-art video production equipment, youth developed skills and techniques to effectively use the film medium, exploring a range of film genres including documentaries, dramas, public service announcements, video poetry, animations, music videos and other experimental styles. All of the films were created for broadcast and webcast by Chicago's Community TV Network youth media organization.

From Crucial Issues to Cultural Insights

Teens determined their topics for the films, which not only provided a unique, first-voice perspective of urban youth today, but also conveyed those messages that they considered to be most important for other teens to hear. These films were produced during the school year and presented urgent messages by youth for other youth, as well as examinations of crucial life choices, missing pieces of history, and the more light-hearted cultural insights. Winning film topics included: choosing the streets versus school, reaching one's potential, displacement, water pollution of the Chicago beaches, poverty, bus transportation, respect for history, as well as the uplifting dance culture of Chicago's West Side.

"Film has emerged as the medium of choice for this generation of youth," said Dr. Denise Zaccardi, executive director for Community TV Network. "This year's 38 entries provide a compelling body of work with an enormous range of topics and formats that offer a genuine portrayal of urban youth experiences, concerns and life choices."

A panel of judges comprised of filmmakers, critics, writers, media professionals and educators, selected the winning films based on film technique criteria but also evaluated the significance of each film. This year's panel of Film Festival judges included: Eduardo Arocho, poet and Adjunct Professor at DePaul University; filmmaker and media journalist Douglas Bonner; Dr. Elizabeth Bouchard, Professor Emeritus at City Colleges of Chicago; Carmine Cervi, filmmaker and partner in Bulletproof Films; John Petrakis, Professor of Film, Video and New Media at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and film critic for the Chicago Tribune; Michael W. Phillips, Jr., Programming Director of the Chicago International Movies and Music Festival and Bank of America Cinema; Dinesh Sabu, filmmaker with Kartemquin Films; and, Dianne Zazycki, artist, juror with the Chicago International Children's Film Festival and Program Improvement Support Manager at UIC Monarch Center, Special Education Faculty at Minority Institutions of Higher Education.

"Reel Look" Reaches Beyond Chicago

Now in its third year, the Chicago Youth Community Film Festival is gaining recognition for its youth productions with 2009 Reel Look student films placing in national festivals including the:

  • 2010 San Francisco International Film Festival;
  • 13th Annual Do It Your Damn Self!! National Youth and Video Film Festival (Boston, MA);
  • 2009 Reel Teens Film Festival (Woodstock, NY);
  • 2010 Chicago CineYouth Festival;
  • 4th Annual Screen Test Student Fest at the Prairie Center for the Arts (Schaumburg, IL).

Additionally, the 2009 Reel Look student films were broadcast in Chicago and New York on Hard Cover, the nation's longest running cable youth-produced TV series.

The 2010 Reel Look student films will be aired on Hard Cover: Voices and Visions of Chicago's Youth, cable channel CAN TV 19, Mondays at 5:30 pm and Tuesdays at 12:30 pm during the summer of 2010.

For more information and to view a sample reel of work, visit the website, www.ctvnetwork.org.

SOURCE Alternative Schools Network

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