The Factory goes to Silverdocs

Posted on: Thursday, June 28 2012

by Jason Jakaitis, Factory Manager

On Wednesday, June 19th Factory filmmaker and high school freshman Lily Yu had a very big day. She flew from San Francisco to Maryland – Maryland being only the 2nd US state she has stepped foot on, arrived after midnight and got up early the next morning to participate in a panel at the prestigious AFI/Discovery Channel Silverdocs documentary film festival and conference at 9:00am. On the panel, 16-year old Lily was joined by the Director of the Public Awareness Initiative at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the heads of two East Coast Public Television and Radio stations, as well as a near-packed audience hoping to hear more about CPB’s ambitious American Graduate initiative to combat the dropout crisis in American high schools.

Lily was, unquestionably, the star of the proceedings. She spoke about the complex workflow for her crowdsourced-via-smart-phones documentary on the dropout epidemic in Oakland, she incited awkward titters when she shared the  inflammatory rhetoric of Cesar Cruz and his Homies Empowerment project in East Oakland (namely that the point of the American Education system is to generate dropouts in schools that serve low-income youth, in the name of preserving status quo financial inequality), and – as one of the only youth participating in Silverdocs’ Schooldocs programming, she lent the affair legitimacy and levity. 

Lily wrapped that up by 11am and proceeded to park herself, along with Factory alumni David Johnson (Sophomore, Prescott College) and Sydney Matterson (Senior, New York University) in the AFI's magnificent Silver Theater, where they watched four feature programs in a row, including Peter Nicks' The Waiting Room, David France's AIDS-activism history lesson How to Survive a Plague, and The Punk Syndrome, a film about a punk band comprised entirely of middle-aged Finnish gentlemen with developmental disabilities. 

In all, Sydney, David and Lily watched fourteen feature films in their four day stint at Silverdocs, as well as speaking on two panels, taking meetings with other youth media orgs from the DC area like the Gandhi Brigade and Meridian Hill Pictures, and screening two of their own films: David Johnson’s documentary Momo, about two Tibetan refugees living in Northern India; and Sydney Matterson’s award-winning Independence in Sight, about visually-impaired teenagers learning to live independently at the remarkable Hatlen center for the Blind. Lily also saw her first firefly.

This trip to Silverdocs was a rare and exhilarating opportunity for three youth filmmakers who have already self-identified as social-justice documentarians and are looking to develop the technical acumen, and make the connections, necessary to affect real change in the world through visual storytelling.