Every year, the Youth Free Expression Program (YFEP) invites young filmmakers to create a short film on a contemporary First Amendment issue. This year, the topic for the Youth Free Expression Film Contest is BODY LANGUAGE.

Freedom of expression is about more than our words: how we dress, do our hair, or even dance all allow us to express who we are and what we believe. Yet, US public schools often limit students’ ability to express themselves through their appearance. All kinds of stylistic expression (hats, mini skirts, tattoos, etc.) are off-limits at one public school or another. But punishment is disproportionately targeted at students who don’t conform to traditional gender expression. In some schools, girls have been banned from wearing tuxedos in the school yearbook, in others, boys haven’t been allowed to wear earrings. And the problem appears to be growing.

Create a video (up to 3 minutes) using film, animation, photographs, music, or anything else to show the importance of expressing one’s gender and identity through personal appearance.

Be thoughtful. Be creative. Be original. Be uncensored.

Need advice or inspiration?

Here are some questions to inspire your film (although these are by no means exhaustive!):

  • Do you feel constrained by your school, social media, your parents or your community in how you express your identity? Or perhaps a different authority not listed here? How and why do you feel censored?  
  • How does censorship of gender or identity expression affect you and/or those around you? Does it have a broader impact on your community? 

You can also check out our workshop on filmmaking at home, the most recent finalists, Resources for First-Time Filmmakers, and a Filmmaker’s Guide to Copyright and Fair Use.

How To Submit

Upload your film to the YFEP Film Contest page on Film Freeway and include an artist’s statement articulating your film’s message. Any genre of film is accepted, including but not limited to, documentary, music video, narrative, and animation. The contest is free to enter

Contestants must be either living in the U.S. or its territories (but need not be citizens) and must be age 19 or younger on the day the film is submitted. Films will be judged on content, artistic and technical merit, and creativity. Judges will be drawn from a panel of renowned filmmakers, writers, artists, and activists.

Submission Deadline: December 3, 2021

Awards & Prizes

The first-place winner receives a scholarship to the New York Film Academy (terms and conditions apply). The top three filmmakers (individual or team) will receive cash prizes of $1,000, $500, and $250.


Alex Gino, Author
Julian Winters, Author
Gina Leonetti, Filmmaker
Andrea Swift, Filmmaker and Chair of Filmmaking at NYFA
Jonathan Whittaker, Filmmaker and Chair of Short-Term Intensive Programs at NYFA


Send us a note at ncac@ncac.org

The National Coalition Against Censorship’s annual Youth Free Expression Film Contest invites young filmmakers to create a short film on a contemporary First Amendment issue. Over the past 15 years, the contest has showcased the talents and ideas of dozens of student filmmakers. NCAC’s Youth Free Expression Program Film Contest is made possible by generous support from the New York Film Academy.