CineYouth Festival Announces Award Winners

The 17th CineYouth Festival, presented by Cinema/Chicago, announced award winners for its 2022 edition in nine categories, as well as the recipient of this year’s Prodigy Scholarship. This year’s award winners include filmmakers from across the country and around the world, with Kyrgyzstan, the United Kingdom, Japan, Canada, Puerto Rico, New York, Louisiana, California, and Illinois represented. This year’s films were screened in person at FACETS April 22 – 24, and the entire slate of 2022 CineYouth Festival films can be streamed virtually online for free from April 25 – May 1, 2022. A selection of the award-winning films will appear at the Chicago International Film Festival in October 2022.

“Each year we are increasingly impressed with the quality and professionalism of the films we have the honor of showcasing at the CineYouth Festival,” said Ryan Saunders, Programming Director for CineYouth. “Young people today are more media literate than ever before, which results in a slate of films that are exquisitely filmed and produced. They craft compelling stories that audiences of all age groups and backgrounds can relate to.” Two films in the Festival’s Chicagoland program were honored, with the Chicago Award Presented by DePaul University going to PING.PONG., directed by Michael Merlino (age 19); and the Social Impact Award Presented by Make It Better Media Group going to LET US BREATHE, by directors Katie JahnsLiz FrohweinAli Wilt, and Alisa Gao (age 22).  
Puerto Rico’s Paulís Cofresí (age 16) received the Rising Star Award Presented by Adobe for THE MAKING OF MY SEASONS, which appears in the Give Me Strength program, presenting films that tackle mental health concerns and personal traumas and using the film medium itself as a form of healing.

The 2022 Prodigy Scholarship was awarded to Theo Baldwin Edwards (age 16) of Louisiana, director of TURKEY in the You Havin’ A Laugh? program. Edwards will be invited to attend Prodigy’s annual weeklong intensive camp, designed for the most promising young filmmakers from around the world and held just outside of Seattle, Washington.

The full list of 2022 CineYouth Award Winners includes: 

Best Animation
ZOOPARK (Kyrgyzstan)
Dirs. DRF Children Animation Studio, ages 8-12
The film that the jury selected shows what can be done in animation with a small amount of money. While pointing out that their town has the worst air quality in the world, the filmmakers also highlighted many good things that they love about their town. It is nice to see a group of young people working together, learning to animate, and appreciating the virtues of their town while acknowledging its problem. 

Best Comedy
DIVINATION DAVE (United Kingdom)
Dir. Georgia Madden, age 19
For the creation and animation of a gorgeous and absurd short about a man and a psychedelic need for salt.

Best Documentary
Dir. Kota Nakamura, age 22
Kota Nakamura’s THE LAST PAGE takes us on an emotional journey from the first seconds of his touching tale of a man faced with closing a decades-long life chapter. This beautifully paced, intimate portrait of a bookstore and its carefree owner is filled with profound points of reflection. It poignantly signals our current intersection in time where physical spaces are disappearing in an increasingly digital world–rapidly quickened by the pandemic. The film’s natural, cleanly composed cinematic style accentuates both the vulnerability and sense of pride of a man tending to a sacred space dedicated to “the joy of searching and the pleasure of beautifully encountering.” As a jury, we felt this film was strong in every category (story structure, visuals, sound, overall impact), and very deserving of the win.

Best Drama
Dir. Olivia De Camps, age 22
Our jury was pleased to view such amazing work by youth. We saw sophisticated filmmaking that was beautiful, compelling and plot driven. We were particularly struck by the recurrence of ethical dilemmas and characters at a moral crossroad in the films. CHICO VIRTUAL is exemplary of good storytelling that is engaging, relevant and affirms the life experience of undocumented youth.

Best Experimental 
Dir. Leonardo Pirondi, age 21
IN SEARCH OF MOUNT ANALOGUE is extremely impressive and demonstrates a keen sense of awareness. Through the blending of techniques this piece simultaneously delivers on the aesthetic and conceptual planes. We felt like we were on a rollercoaster with this film, but we didn’t realize we were on a rollercoaster until the very end.Best International
Dir. Solmund MacPherson, age 22
A beautifully shot and smart satire, which is able to communicate a lot with very economical use of language. It pulled us in from the very beginning and sustained our attention throughout, a surprisingly funny short that makes a clever point about the climate and is very well done.

Chicago Award Presented by DePaul University
PING.PONG. (Illinois, U.S.)
Dir. Michael Merlino, age 19
As we watched through the short films we all agreed that PING.PONG. was one of the most relatable films out of the bunch. We’ve witnessed the way people use others, blowing off family in hopes to have better things to do and quickly regretting it or simply having low self esteem in some cases and making poor decisions. PING.PONG. showed that we sometimes see the red flags in people but become oblivious to them in hopes that things will be good. This short narrative was inspirational, we as teens were able to empathize and sympathize for the main character. We also noticed the different framing and composition techniques that made the short feel like reality.

Rising Star Award Presented by Adobe
Dir. Paulís Cofresí, age 16
The programming committee was unanimous in its decision of choosing this film for the Rising Star Award. We were all impressed by the creative and innovative narrative techniques, the emotionally striking performances, the pure raw talent and most importantly, the courageous approach to such emotionally delicate material. 

Social Impact Award Presented by Make It Better Media Group
LET US BREATHE (Illinois, U.S.)
Dirs. Katie Jahns, Liz Frohwein, Ali Wilt, Alisa Gao, age 22
We are delighted to present the Impact Award to the winning filmmakers of the documentary LET US BREATHE. The inspiring story of a local community coming together to fight a serial polluter that the filmmakers Katie, Liz, Ali and Alisa have told is beyond deserving. Created in 9 weeks while attending Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, the social impact they created by giving this community a platform to share their struggles was absolutely inspiring. 

For more information, visit the CineYouth website by clicking here.

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