Brooklyn Kids Festival Tackles Adversity, Bullies and Trump, Too

Ryan Mikel
Young filmmakers at the 13th Annual KidsFilmFest.

Kids are changing the world — well, at least they’re trying to. The 14th annual kidsfilmfest on June 2 was a testament to that, as rising filmmakers channeled their untampered dreams and unwavering hope into art that may not change the world today, but has the potential to tomorrow.

The 15 films that screened didn’t tackle Spielberg-caliber themes of war and famine, but rather explored the human condition and every child’s right to be accepted, loved and celebrated. They all seemed to stand up against something or someone, whether that was adversity, bullies or the president, himself.

The tiny but mighty festival originally started as a part of the Brooklyn International Film Festival, aiming to discover and expose children filmmakers from around the world to New York City and the world. But it didn’t stop there. The festival has since grown into a platform for the youngest members of society to promote inclusion and celebrate difference.

“With the kidsfilmfest, I hope to inspire children to open their minds to other possibilities,” Lisa King, the festival director said. “Everyone has a story to tell and their own unique way to tell it.”

One filmmaker, in particular, embodied this spirit. Hailing from Little Rock, Arkansas, 11-year-old filmmaker Kennedy Jordan directed, wrote and starred in her short film, “The Birthday Bully.” The PSA of sorts follows the story of new girl Mia (Laura Lasseigne) who falls victim to bullying at school. But when one girl stands up for Mia in the short’s final scene, the audience learns a powerful lesson –– it only takes one person to stop bullying.

Courtesy of Kennedy Jordan

Jordan, in the titular role of birthday bully Allie, got to play mean for a few days onscreen, but offscreen, devoted herself to raising awareness against bullying since day one.

“The ending scene was stuck in my head, and I didn’t let it go until we shot it,” Jordan said. “It really only takes one.”

The message reached more than just the kidsfilmfest audience. “The Birthday Bully” caught the attention of FOX16 News Anchor Kevin Kelly, who includes the short film in his “Step Up, Stop Bullying” campaign. Several times a month, Kelly visits elementary and middle schools around Central Arkansas to teach kids the dangers of bullying. Kelly found the film through a mutual friend and has stood by it since.

Aside from bullying, the films of kidsfilmfest touched upon a number of themes. Marat Narimanov warned of climate change in his film “The Big Booom” while Bill Jarcho’s claymated “Not One Of Us” warned of the perils of building walls and drawing lines in the sand. Other messages of positive self-image (“The Reflection In Me”), women in science (“Litterbugs”) and facing your fears (“The Fallen Swan”) were dispersed throughout the two-hour lineup and made for an encouraging viewing experience in today’s political climate.

While it all goes back to the kids, the festival’s success is largely due in part to the director herself. King doesn’t discriminate among the 133 applicants like a French festival jury but rather encourages all mediums and levels of filmmaking to apply.

“Use your iPhone, use a regular camera, use whatever means you have available to tell your story,” King said. “It doesn’t have to cost a lot, or be anything fancy, it just has to be yours.”

The 14th Annual kidsfilmfest took place on June 2 at Made in NY Media Center.

Email Ryan Mikel at [email protected]

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