By James Sheridan – YES Prep Southeast
Attending the Houston Cinema Arts Festival has become a yearly tradition at YES Prep Southeast, one that is woven into the fabric of our year and allows the entire junior class and teachers to experience film in a unique and unforgettable way.
We started attending in 2013 and have seen films at both the Sundance Theater downtown and the Museum of Fine Arts-Houston. The Festival provides a crucial and important opportunity for young people to engage critically with art and the world around them. The films that we have seen over the past six years range from a Chasing Shakespeare, a magical love story, to The Boy and The World, an Oscar-nominated, nearly wordless Brazilian animation film, as well as documentaries about people wrongly accused, impressive origami artists, and undeniably impressive tap dancers.
Interacting with Artists
In all cases, the Cinema Arts Festival has given us the rare opportunity to hear from the artists themselves after each film, and the Q&A (questions & answers) with the audience has been a highlight because it allows students to interact directly with the artists. The students ask questions about the funding of these films, the intricate details of shooting them, and what the director’s process for engaging with film was like even while in high school.
This space is a memorable one because it allows students to consider the many careers within filmmaking and the many ways to appreciate film. Many of our students consider Film as an option in their collegiate coursework at schools as wide-ranging as University of Southern California to University of Houston. Everyone has an opinion about the latest horror film or superhero saga. Film is a way of engaging with the greater culture. Regardless of an intended major, studying film is a way of using a critical lens to examine the world.
Time for Reflection
The late Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert stated that “Movies are the most powerful empathy machine in all the arts. When I go to a great movie I can live somebody else’s life for a while,” and I can think of no more powerful or relevant thing that our world needs in 2018.
None of this work would be possible without the generous support of the individuals who run this marvelous festival. The work that they do behind the scenes is truly magnificent. They have created memorable moments for hundreds of students. We want to thank The Houston Cinema Arts Festival for inviting YES Prep Southeast back to the festival for our sixth year and for our many supporters along the way who made this extraordinary experience happen.
About the Festival
This year, the Houston Arts Festival (HCAF) ran from November 8 through 12, celebrating its 10th anniversary. HCAF is a five-day, multi-venue film and arts festival including narrative and documentary features, video installation exhibitions, multimedia performances, panel discussions, and workshops aimed at connecting the various literary and performance arts through film.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
James Sheridan has worked at YES Prep since 2009 and been a teacher since 2000. He currently serves as the AP English Literature instructor, Eleventh Grade Chair, and AP English Literature Course Facilitator at YES Prep Southeast. Sheridan attended Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio. His favorite films are Pulp Fiction, Vertigo, The Empire Strikes Back, There Will Be Blood, and Bambi.