- Sponsorship -

Teens on the screen

Festival showcases talents of young filmmakers

Kent District Library is a proud sponsor of SNN
Kent District Library is a proud sponsor of SNN

A day before viewers gathered around their televisions to see who would take home the Oscars at the 91st Academy Awards, teen filmmakers, judges and spectators gathered at Celebration! Cinema North to watch another film fête: the 13th Kent County Teen Film Festival.

“People get really excited just seeing what these teens can do,” said Tricia Hetrick, festival coordinator and an adult librarian at Kent District Library’s Cascade branch. “They’re extremely talented. It’s a chance for them to really shine.”

KDL librarian Tricia Hetrick organizes the Kent County Teen Film Festival, which just wrapped up its 13th year (courtesy photo)

The festival, founded by KDL librarian Kelaine Mish, features films produced by Kent County residents in sixth- through 12th-grades. A panel of four judges — all local filmmakers — chose the winners in each category.

This year’s festival featured 23 short films, chosen from among 43 entries. Films varied from thrillers to a claymation documentary about the environment created by middle school students from North Park Montessori, to the one-student silent short “A Southside Journey,” which tackles the subject of gentrification in a city neighborhood.

The Teen Film Festival was the film-acting debut for Lee Middle School eighth-grader Jose Manuel Zavala, 14, who played sidekick Heath Hill to protagonist Jerry McHoover — played by former Lee High School student Luke McGee — in the film “In a Court of Life,” which won the People’s Choice award.

Kent County Teen Film Festival 2019 Winners

People’s Choice: “In a Court of Life” (Lee, Rockford high schools)

Best Live Action Short: “Hidden History” (Rockford High School)

Best Director: Mariah Barrera, “A Southside Journey” (City High/Middle School)

Best Actress: Alina Pawl-Castanon, “Isolation” (Northview High School)

Best Actor: Luke McGee, “In a Court of Life” (Lee High School)

Best Ensemble: “Fight for Freedom” (Homeschool)

Best Documentary: “Deforestation of Amazon Forest, Copper Mining in the Upper Peninsula, Sandoz Chemical Fire…” (North Park Montessori)

Best Editing: Brian LeClair, “fly” (Homeschool)

Best Cinematography: “Pleasantview” (Rockford High School)

Best Original Music: Viet Tran, “Whispering Eye” (Byron Center High School)

Best Screenplay: “Hidden History” (Rockford High School)

Jose Manuel said it took the crew of teens one week to film the piece, which was written and directed by Luke. The film is equal parts comedy, crime drama and action.

“I just love acting, and acting is something I’ve always wanted to do,” said Jose Manuel of his experience. “It was really fun.”

He added that there were many good films, and he was both surprised and excited to have won the People’s Choice award. The experience is one he’d like to repeat.

“I could see myself doing this a lot more,” he said.

A Spotlight to Shine In

Hetrick, who organizes the festival with help from KDL staff Monica Whalen, a youth specialist at the East Grand Rapids branch, and Greg Lewis, a teen librarian at the Kentwood branch, said that the festival instills confidence in participants. It also gives them an opportunity to network with teens and representatives from film departments at local colleges, who are on hand at the awards event.

She added that the festival is a chance for students who may not get the spotlight for their athletic or academic prowess, but who excel creatively, to be recognized for their talent and work.

“My hope is that kids make friends who share their interest and they go on to make movies together,” Hetrick said. “That they find that they can take their talent somewhere.”

Winners took home a statue and a gift card to either Celebration! Cinema or the Apple Store. While the event is usually held the same weekend as the Oscars, next year’s festival bucks that trend and will be a once-every-four-years opportunity: It’s set for Saturday, Feb. 29.


Watch all accepted entries for the Kent County Teen Film Festival

The crowd assembles before the 13th annual Kent County Teen FIlm Festival (courtesy photo)

- Sponsorship -
Bridie Bereza
Bridie Bereza
Bridie Bereza hails from Lansing and has worked in the Grand Rapids area as a reporter, freelance writer, and communicator since graduating from Aquinas College in 2003. She feels privileged to cover West Michigan's public schools and hopes to shed a little light on the amazing things happening there through her reporting.


This student leader aspires to inspire

His advice: seize all opportunities, reach out to others...

Plotting for a plot

Students’ hand-drawn maps are meant for the safekeeping of memories and to spur ideas for when they write personal narratives...

Students reopen fine-dining restaurant six months after closing its doors

GRCC’s The Heritage has reopened to the general public, with culinary students cooking, baking their way toward degrees...

‘We’re educators; we always make it work’

Kelly VanDyke’s roots in Kenowa Hills reach back to her days as a student teacher there in the Resource Room. Entering her eleventh school year as a special education teacher at Central Elementary, she is preparing for new students, safety protocols and classroom learning, reimagined...


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related Articles

Charts indicate when students should go to school, stay home

The Kent County Health Department has created flow charts for students and staff to reference if they have symptoms that are concerning for COVID-19...

Here come the students; schools try to be ‘prepared for everything’

Area school districts have to be able to switch instruction plans if the pandemic fires up again, and be prepared for the possibility of a COVID-19 outbreak in one of their schools...

Ready or not, school year begins as leaders adopt plans to teach, protect students

With most of Kent County’s public school districts opening next week, superintendents talk about their plans to educate students while trying to keep them safe from an unpredictable virus...
- Sponsorship -


Engagement: The Most Important Measure of Student Success

Polls find that students’ engagement in their school work declines as they ascend the grades. Tests that don’t relate to their real-life experiences exacerbate the problem...


Food ‘angels’ support hungry kids through pandemic

They work all across Kent County, guardian angels with peanut butter on their hands and crumbs on their shirtsleeves...
- Sponsorship -


Maranda Where You LiveWGVU