Lights, Camera, Youth

Kathryn Dietz, J76, helped organize the upcoming Boston International Kids Film Festival with shows for, about and sometimes by young people

And now, for your viewing pleasure, we present a film about a rag-tag team of friends battling the inevitable zombie apocalypse, directed by teenagers from Medfield, Massachusetts. Or you may enjoy a 1940s-style film noir from a high school student in England, complete with fedora and Chandleresque dialogue. But if you prefer the classics, a shot-by-shot remake of the original trailer for Ghostbusters, featuring four middle school girls as a spot-on Bill Murray and his gang, is worth the price of admission alone.

Some 50 films for, about and sometimes created by young people will be screened at the Boston International Kids Film Festival, which takes place at the Somerville Theatre and on Tufts’ Medford/Somerville campus starting Wednesday, Nov. 5. The festival, sponsored in part by Tufts’ Communications and Media Studies Program, is put on by the Filmmakers Collaborative, a nonprofit organization that supports independent filmmakers.

A still from “Life on the Line,” a documentary that’s screening at the Boston International Kids Film Festival. Photo: Jen Gilomen, Fine Line FilmsA still from “Life on the Line,” a documentary that’s screening at the Boston International Kids Film Festival. Photo: Jen Gilomen, Fine Line Films
Kathryn Dietz, J76, executive director of the Filmmakers Collaborative, envisioned the festival, now in its second year, as a way to focus the attention of an age group that spends more than eight hours per day on digital media. And children, says Dietz, are not only hungry users of media, they are prolific creators. Time was, if you wanted to make a movie you needed expensive equipment and a savvy distributor; now all you really need is a smartphone and YouTube.

“Our aim is to help kids use media so it doesn’t use them,” she says. “Media literacy is about being good at consuming as well as producing media.   

Most of the festival’s offerings, chosen from some 300 submissions, were created by professional filmmakers, but are geared toward middle and high school students. They were picked not because of their pointed messages, Dietz says, but because they are just good films.

From Mexico, there is Ulises y los 10,000 Bigotes (Ulysses and the 10,000 Mustaches), a comedy about a 9-year-old boy who grows an enormous mustache each day. Horizon Beautiful is about a 12-year-old soccer fanatic in Ethiopia who goes to great lengths to be “discovered” by a visiting football mogul. The festival kicks off on Nov. 5 at 7:30 p.m. in Tufts’ Cohen Auditorium with a screening of the feature-length documentary Annie: It’s the Hard-Knock Life, by award-winning filmmaker Joshua Seftel, A90.

“We are experienced filmmakers, and we have a lot to bring to the table,” Dietz says. “But we know that kids can teach us a few things, too.”

Zombie-battling tips are just a small part of that. Among the other kid-produced offerings is A Teen’s Guide to Understanding and Communicating with People with Autism, by a New Jersey student, and a documentary about the environmental effects of gold mining, by a group of high school students in Turkey.

In addition to the films, the festival includes several workshops for pre-adults and parents. One, called “communication camp,” schools teens on the almost-lost art form of face-to-face conversation.

“They have mastered Snapchat and Twitter and Facebook, but they are not so good at communicating in person,” Dietz says, adding that a firm handshake, eye contact and general ability to speak articulately will be important when it’s time to interview for a job.

Another workshop gives tips on using inexpensive add-ons such as microphones and tripods to enhance making movies with—you guessed it—a smartphone.

The festival runs Wednesday, Nov. 5, and Friday, Nov. 7, through Sunday, Nov. 9. Tickets and a schedule of the movie showings and workshops are available at College students are welcome. Wednesday’s screening and talk by Joshua Seftel is free to the entire Tufts community.  

Julie Flaherty can be reached at

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