Film Festivals Welcome Students With the advent of 2018 comes exciting new programming in film!
written by Louisa Castrodale
The Palm Springs International Film Festival returns for its 29th season this January with its customary lineup of hundreds of outstanding films from around the world. Plus the American Documentary Film Festival arrives in April with an equally exceptional selection of documentary films.
What the general public may not know, however, is that both festivals are wholly committed to sharing the wealth with local students, and have been doing so for years. Your tickets help support the arts education of young people in the desert area in a powerful and ongoing way.
This is the 11th year that the Palm Springs Festival will host its Student Screening Day at the Richards Center for the Arts on the Palm Springs High School campus. Each year the district’s Arts Coordinator, Louisa Castrodale, and its Educational Programs Director, Zachary Solomon, review dozens of films to choose the most compelling entries to share with high school students. They eventually select two—one feature and one documentary. On Screening Day, students arrive from high schools all over the valley, excited for a day in which they will watch a film in the morning, break for lunch, and then view a second film in the afternoon.
The goal for Student Screening Day is twofold. The first is to show students something well outside of their everyday experience—films in another language, for instance, or from other parts of the world. The two selected last year were the Swedish feature A Man Called Ove and the Mongolian documentary The Eagle Huntress. The second goal is to screen films that will have a significant impact on the students. Optimally, these films should be “game changers” that the students will be thinking about for days and weeks afterward.
Besides thoughtful film selection, scheduling special guest speakers to accompany the films creates major buzz and a thrilling experience for the 800-plus students, who often give the speakers standing ovations upon entering the theater. Last year, the director of A Man Called Ove, Hannes Holm, held a Q&A after watching part of the screening with the students, whom he praised as the “best audience” he had ever had! It was truly a win-win experience for all.
In a similar fashion, AmDocs Festival founder Teddy Grouya seeks to “change the world” one film at a time. Working with Castrodale, he has set up a day for each of the district’s four high schools to enjoy films. His selections combine interesting content, new experiences, foreign settings and thought-provoking ideas. As Grouya explains, he has patterned the program after those in Scandinavian countries, which place a high priority on including students in their film events.
AmDocs originally began working with the district by providing catalogs to teachers so that they would have access to outstanding films for classroom use. It was a practice made possible by cultivating relationships with filmmakers and securing their permission to make their films available to teachers and their students.
Our students are incredibly fortunate to be included in the plans of these two major festivals. As the keepers of the flame of filmmaking realize, exposure to quality productions at a young age not only promotes a lifelong appreciation of the form, but also contributes to the development of the next generation of storytellers and filmmakers!