An Idea Ahead of Its Time: The Virtual Bridge Film Festival
Bridge Film Festival Turns 21 As Students Enjoy a Virtual Film Festival on a Virtual Platform
Since the year 2000, Brooklyn Friends School colleague Andrew Cohen has organized and produced the Bridge Film Festival. It was created with the goal of encouraging creative – and socially conscious – middle and upper school students to produce films that focus on messages of concern through a Quaker lens. Now in its 21st year, the Festival has operated completely virtually for the past five years — finding itself ahead of the technological curve of our COVID-19 quarantined world.
This year’s nominees included 23 films created by students at 10 different Friends schools that can all be viewed over at the festival’s website, http://bridgefilmfestival.blogspot.com/.
While there, viewers can also watch the Judges’ Choice Awards where the judges discuss the winners of the awards they voted on based on the merits of communication, creativity, technical quality, Quaker relevance and originality. The middle and upper school students of Brooklyn Friends have watched the Judges’ Choice Awards during virtual collections in April.
Legendary documentarian Ken Burns is part of the award’s video, giving viewers a background on the mission of the Bridge Film Festival, stating that “The Bridge Film Festival has provided a forum for dialog, learning, and exchange of ideas of commonality and diversity. Serving student filmmakers across an international network of Quaker educational institutions, the festival is committed to nurturing purposeful filmmaking that communicates messages of conscience. while recognizing creative achievement.”
Each winning film represented Quaker values in its own way.
In the documentary category, the winner, Meals for Kurt, came from the San Francisco Friends School in California. The film’s director/editor, Brown S., first met Kurt when helping her mother who was working on a promotion for Meals for Wheels. After meeting Kurt, a Meals for Wheels client, Brown S. couldn’t stop thinking about him and wanted to tell his story. In the short film, Kurt gives the viewer a bit of a background on his upbringing, his struggle with glaucoma in his left eye, and his love of music, playing piano throughout. “With classical you’re stuck, because you have to learn from music,” Kurt said. “But with jazz, you learn the chords and then you can improvise it and create your own stuff which I thought was a lot better.”
In the Narrative category, the winning film, That’s So Gay, comes from Tandem Friends School in Charlottesville, Virginia. In the film, a middle school student confronts one of his friends when they use the word “gay” in a derogatory manner. The two students end up talking with a school counselor to discuss their feelings and a way to move forward positively together and learn from the moment. The festival judges loved the way the students in the film methodically addressed the topical issue and thought that it would be very valuable for anyone to watch to understand how to speak out if something is bothering you.
The New Media winner was a music video entitled Spicy Spices from the George School in Newtown, Pennsylvania. The most lighthearted of the award winners, this musical performance saw the students take their love for hip-hop music and come up with a clever song about community that included positive messages of individuality, rejection discrimination and helping save the environment. The judges praised the song and video for it’s “different take on Quaker values.”
The Public Service Announcement winner, Stewardship, from the New Garden Friends School in Greensboro, North Carolina, was extra impressive for its use of stop motion technology, a version of filming that is known to be painstakingly time consuming. The students used LEGO characters to depict acts of air and ocean pollution, giving the viewer statistics like the fact that the National Academy of Sciences estimate that ships have dumped 14 billion pounds of waste in the ocean. The video ends on a positive note though, with a LEGO man picking up trash with a message that we can keep our world clean through stewardship to make less waste and save our environment.
Last, but not least, the coveted Spirit of the Festival award went to a New Garden Friends School submission by student Austin S., A Special Blend. The film is named after a coffee shop on Market Street in Greensboro that is trying to help change the fact that over 80% of disabled people are unemployed. The shop was founded in 2018 and as one of the company’s board members, Jo Hughes says in the film, “The mission is to employ adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, bridging the gap between the community and these folks and showing the community how able bodied everyone can be.
All 23 film nominees from the 2020 Bridge Film Festival are well worth the time to watch and see the world through the perspectives of Friends students across the country. Now, more than ever, the importance of Quaker values can be brought into the minds of people around the globe one video click at a time.