One of the lesser-known, but more inspiring events during the Tribeca Film Festival, was the screening of “Our City, My Story.”
Curated by the Tribeca Film Institute, this annual event is now in its sixth year and showcases the best of New York City’s youth-made media. The program is set up to teach young people how to make a film, be it in the context of their schools or independently. This year, the screening featured a diverse selection of 13 short films that involved over 60 filmmakers from all five of the city’s boroughs.
The films could not be more eclectic in style and approach. Most focus on what is at hand; New York’s landscape and texture — establishing a portrait that captures many of this city’s facets, fascinations and hardships.
In “Lippy,” Aishah Abdullah focuses on the city’s vast array of people by simply shooting individuals of different color, gender and size before a blank backdrop. It is a potent contrast between color and minimalism. Zooming in further, “Make it Happen” by Caroline Handel, Rayhan Islam, Milo Finnegan-Money and Rhakwaun Seymour follows three individuals in New York City, who have become non-traditional activists. Through seeding wildflowers in Bedford-Stuyvesant’s many vacant lots, altering the city’s public advertisements or providing the homeless with water, each individual has impacted the urban community in an inspiring fashion.
One of the most touching stories comes in the form of intimate personal accounts. “Teenage Motherhood” is told by Jacquelyn Gutierrez and Erick Echevarria. It focuses on Ashley Gutierrez — a new, sixteen-year-old mother who shares her joys and problems. She talks about how she tried to conceal her pregnancy at first; how she feared judgment and how the baby has changed her daily routines. Her only support system is her own mother, whose main goal is to help Ashley finish school.
In “The Image of My Perception,” Ashley Turizo talks about the pressures of growing up in the Lower East Side with a single mother and two brothers, of whom one is in prison for drug charges and the other is at home and openly violent. She is about to graduate from high school and might be the first member of her family to go to college. As she struggles to choose her path, her film is a manifestation of her belief that she can change her reality through changing her perception.
A smart, charming and funny film is “Little Dominica NYC” by Jose Valdez, Dionis Quezada, Slimane Rabout — in which we follow the adventures of a teenage boy in search of Dominican culture and history in New York City. Various encounters and clever interviews lead him to Washington Heights, making a trip way Uptown more enticing than ever.