Congratulations Winners!

1st Place: Angelique Pineda – Ewa Beach, Hawaii

2nd Place: Aaron Field – Olympia, Washington

3rd Place: Matthew Moniuszko – Yorktown, Virginia

The three winners were flown to New York City, where their films were screened at the 2016 All American High School Film Festival on October 8th. The film festival took place at the AMC Empire 25 Theaters in Times Square. The winning submissions can also be viewed on this web page.

The theme for the 2016-17 Youth Free Expression Film Contest is WATCH WHAT YOU TWEET! HOW FREE SHOULD SOCIAL MEDIA BE

Congratulations to all of the winners and semifinalists of this year's contest:

"Censorship Music Video," by Zach Demnianiuk

Artist’s Statement:
I chose to do a music video about censorship. The music genre in the video is rap which is in itself a form of freedom of speech. The lyrics of the rap speak out against censorship (lyrics provided in description of the youtube video). We (my friend and I) chose to film in various graffiti-filled locations in San Diego because graffiti is an art that symbolizes free expression. The making of the video was a lengthy process. It took two days to film and about five days to edit. In the end we feel that we achieved the message of anti-censorship that we aimed for.

"Mein Citrus," by Emily Claborn and Lihlu Fuentes

Artists’ Statement:
I have an intense fascination with the happenings of the Third Reich, more specifically Hitler and the Holocaust. These are two very sensitive subjects that nobody seems to want to talk about. This is both astounding and saddening to me having the interests that I do, so I set off to make a film about it with my partner, Lihlu Fuentes. We wanted to create something that would force people to confront history, but do so in a way that would accurately depict the horrors of the Holocaust while being watchable, hence the apples and oranges. In making this stop motion with fruit, a comedic factor was added to the Holocaust while also walking the line of being overly blunt and offensive. That is why this film is relevant to the conversation of the length humor can go until it’s not funny anymore. The final product runs at 24 frames per second, thus, being 60 seconds long, is 1,440 pictures.

"You Can't Say That," by Zain Hashmat

Artist’s Statement:
My friends and I always used the word "gay" whenever we thought something was funny or weird. We weren't homophobic, it was just a word we used. Eventually I stopped using that word after realizing how wrong it is. But one day I thought to myself "when CAN I say ‘gay’? When can one go so far in an act where someone can actually say if that act is ‘gay’ or not?” That's when I got the idea for this movie. I wanted to make a movie that addresses the usage of that word in today's times. I also wanted to point out how easily offended people are by that word. The movie doesn't have a protagonist or antagonist. I wanted people to watch this movie and choose for themselves who's right or wrong. The film displays these different points of view through over-the-top comedic examples. The two "simpletons" (played by me, Zain Hashmat and Griffen Gardner) try to prove that saying gay is alright by acting out outlandish and foolish scenarios such as the lollipop on the scooter scene. These are obviously comedic examples and are not meant to be taken seriously but the "politically correct guy" (played by Sulaiman Tariq) is offended and tries to disprove them in as many ways as he can. The entire film is a fight between who can argue better and who has better points (which, admittedly none of them do). So, after watching the movie whose side are you on?

"Comedy vs. Satire," by Lissy Shortall

Artist’s Statement:
While addressing comedy versus satire, I decided to go in a way that is very informational, yet persuasive. Ordinarily, if a topic does not pique my interest, I will not take a second look at it; however, I certainly did not agree with the idea of being censored through comedy, and decided to create awareness to the topic by making a video. First, I created a slideshow to generalize my ideas for the video, and asked two teachers, Mr. and Mrs. Murray, to offer helpful suggestions. Afterwards, I began filming the audio, then overlaid clips taken from my Canon Rebel t3i camera, which best fit, were visually pleasing, and best accompanied the statements. Aside from being educational, I did my best to incorporate examples of mise en scene throughout the video to show how the satire/freedom of speech side was more powerful over the comedy/censorship side. For example, the boy with the tape over his mouth being shot from a high angle shows his vulnerability and lack of power. Another physiological effect I decided to incorporate was the use of black and white to indicate lack of freedom. Black and white also represented duality between freedom of speech and censorship when it comes to the topic of satire. Everyone included in the video, aside from clips from television or live performances cited in the end, are all friends of mine that agreed to being in the video and were extremely helpful to the filming process.


"Hold Your Applause," by Nailah Raab

Artist’s Statement:
In this film I attempted to recreate a sort of PSA/satire type commercial. We address the many uses of comedy and the rights that comedians have to say what they want (even though some of it may be in bad taste). I struggled with the 'prompt' of the film because I have heard horrible things said under the protection of free speech, but then I realized that the audience has the right to also say as they like. So I focused on the fact that comedians should be able to say what they want, and if the audience doesn't like it, they do not have to be in their audience. The performers will have no one to perform to and they will adjust, and none of the repercussions to this should be incarceration. Hopefully the message is as clear as possible.

"Bang Bang Ha Ha," by Joshua Niccolo Swan

Artist’s Statement:
Like the main characters in my short film, I believe that fighting censorship against comedy using laughter is effective. So I created a comedic take on a very serious issue that will bring laughter to a harsher subject. This film is about two young guys who find out their jokes are becoming censored and they take it upon themselves to try to stop it. I was influenced by the styles of Edgar Wright, Sergio Leone and Spike Jonze. I tried to make the film as fast paced as possible but keep the viewer glued to the screen. I also tried to make the camera angles and color grades match the tone of the film at that moment. It was a blast working on my first film and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Most of all, my film conveys that you cannot judge a joke too harshly. I will leave you with a quote from one of my favorite stand-up comedians of all time, George Carlin: "If it’s funny, you can joke about it, I believe you can joke about anything. It all depends on how you construct the joke.”


"bleep," by Matthew Moniuszko

Artist’s Statement:
As our society becomes more and more sensitive, we become less progressive. Many people today ridicule, or even hate upon comedy that includes uncomfortable or raw material. However, I believe this gritty comedy can push our society forward, "challenge stigmas, and open dialogue about issues when nothing else will."

By making this film, I hope to expose the ridiculous claim that comedy should not offend people. After deciding that a brotherly disagreement regarding good comedy would be best to carry my message, I began working. With the help of my brother and parents (as acting talents), my film "bleep" was created.

This film allowed me to challenge myself to carry a narrative and message using careful screenwriting, cinematography, acting, directing, and sound design.

Please enjoy “bleep,” and thank you.

"Only If You Let It," by Angelique Pineda

Artist’s Statement:
This short film was created to speak up about the topic of comedy, and whether or not it goes too far. In the video, a girl walks into her classroom and one of her classmates said a joke about her. She overreacts to the joke, and perceives everyone to be laughing at her. As she runs away her classmates chase her, like the joke chases her in her own head. At the end she comes back to reality and realizes that what he said was just a joke, and decides to laugh with them. Comedy is all subjective. It's all about how you distinguish it. Like my slogan at the end says, “Comedy only crosses the line if you let it.”

I found out about this contest when my film teacher told our club about it. In a week we came up with a concept for this video, shot, and edited everything. I was determined to create a phenomenal short film while addressing this controversy.

In the society that we live in, people get easily offended by jokes, and take it the wrong way. But I believe that we can work towards just making light of some things people say, and try not to see everything in a negative light. We can all learn to laugh once in awhile.

"A Love Letter to the Uncensored," by Aaron Field

Artist’s Statement:
This film is a love letter to those who stand uncensored. Comedy is an art and art should never be censored. As a filmmaker who constantly wants to share others’ stories and my own, this topic really hits home for me. I wanted my film not only to state facts but to carry a story in order to really connect with my audience. I chose to keep it as simple as possible to let my words carry the weight of the film. I hope this film will open some eyes and help people think a little differently about the media they consume.

"The Malign," by Deeva Agravat

Artist’s Statement:
This video portrays what an alternate reality would look like if comedy was censored, and if telling jokes were a crime. The protagonist in the video is re-telling her story of what it was like living in an environment where the Humorators did not allow laughing, and they had to wear an X on their lips. While re-telling her story, the primary character recalls how she was nearly captured by the Humorators, who were an oppressive and extremist regime that silenced the voices of their citizens. The character wants to voice her jokes, so she manages to hack into the server, and recover ancient jokes. As a result she is tracked down by the Humorators and nearly captured. I filmed the video in black and white to symbolically represent ignorance, and how being censored forces individuals to see through a limited perspective. In addition, I filmed this video through a first person view so the audiences can peer into the narrator’s stream of consciousness. Although there are a wide variety of subliminal messages, I want my audiences to know that any form of censorship hinders society’s growth and progression.

"Freedom in Tacos," by Andres M. Garza

Artist’s Statement:
Freedom in Tacos shows my point of where I stand on restricting comedy, there’s some acts where you might not like or understand but no one forces you to stand there and watch. We all have a choice of what entertains us, and limiting the people who do that is an illogical solution. When I decide I’m going to tackle a project, I immediately set strict restrictions that force me to create work that I believe will stand out. The main restriction here was that I was not allowed to use any sort of comedians, performers, or audiences to bring my standpoint across the film. Some ideas come easier than others; I sat down to write the script while having some tacos, so things just clicked there and then and I went with it. I don’t have the luxury of any camera gear, so in order to tell my stories, I use my computer. It’s complex to animate but fairly cheap. I started out with minimalistic storyboarding using purely geometric shapes which gives it the sleek and clean look. When designing the overall look, I set even more rules. Went with a broad analogous cool palette with very few complementary colors to emphasize the tacos and character. The animation was endless jumping back and forth from AE to PS, in it, I tried to keep the same fluid motion throughout the scenes.

"Limits," by Sabrina Bajamundi and Ashley Hormaza

Artists’ Statement:
'Limits' provides the perspective of high school teens that have experienced comments or jokes that came across as offensive. The idea was basically that comedy touches controversial subjects that affect a person's feelings. Each student shares how people may have said things thinking it was out of humor, but really it was out of ignorance. Each clip that was filmed had a purpose to portray the emotional aspect of the 'joke receiver'. We used people from different backgrounds, so viewers can see how comedy does not fail to leave anyone out. 'Comedy' points a finger to everyone at some point.

The message of the film is that we each as individuals can make a difference when it comes to bringing awareness to the fact that there needs to be a change in the way society portrays people who don't fit in to the "normal" standards it places on its youth. The film is meant to express just how deep words can cut through someone, and in today's world there is no better way to get a point across then to show the world what it is we need to change.

We decided to try out for this scholarship because we knew it would challenge us in a creative way that would also allow us to speak out in our own community about an issue in society that is very important. In order for us as human beings to continue to evolve and grow, we must come together and not let minor things like our differences get in the way of that. Moreover, we want this video to spread so that today's youth can realize that it all begins and ends with them because truly it does.