Film festival curated by West Side students

A virtual film festival developed by young people on the West Side showcased eight short films from around the world

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Pascal Sabino/Block Club Chicago

A virtual film festival developed by young people on the West Side showcased eight short films from around the world, including one film written and produced by the local teens.

The jury and creators of the WorldScene Film Festival are participants of BUILD Chicago's Bridges to Pathways youth development program. The mentorship program uses restorative justice principles and workforce training to keep kids out of the criminal justice system and curb violence on the West Side.

Teens in the program organized last week's film festival after a 14-week film immersion program in partnership with the International Children's Media Center in River North. They watched 50 thought-provoking short films covering themes such as diversity, courage and empowerment while curating the festival.

Devon Tims, one of the mentors for the program, said it was eye-opening to see the emotional impact a film as short as three minutes can have.

"They were able to evaluate them and talk about how they related to these short films that they viewed," Tims said.

Creating a short film was a new experience for many of the teens, requiring them to learn production and writing skills.

"It gave kids a vision of things they could do that they had never done before," Tims said. "And it has opened up the youth's eyes to taking advantage of media and the power it has."

The film they produced, "The Bystander," is an anti-bullying drama that will premiere at the festival. It's about the power young people have to shape the world around them if they have the courage to stand up and speak out when they see something that isn't right.

"Even if you're not bullying a person, you can still affect what's going on," said Lamont, one of the teens who helped shoot the film. "If you're not bullying, you should be the one to stop the bullying."

Other shorts that were screened include South Korean animated film "Johnny Express," French film "Graveland" and Australian sports movie "The Trophy Thief."

The 90-minute screening of "The Bystander" and other films happened virtually each day at 5 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. After the screening, there was a conversation and analysis of the films with the youth participants and directors.

Viewers were able to vote online for their favorite films after the screening before a winner was named Best of Fest.

Pascal Sabino is a Report for America corps member covering Austin, North Lawndale and Garfield Park for Block Club Chicago.

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