Before it tours the world, I caught the Thursday night sold-out world premiere screening of the 8th Annual Media That Matters Film Festival presented by Arts Engine at the IFC Center. Tonight’s screening at the Tribeca Cinemas is nearly sold-out, too, but I’m told there are some tickets left for a lucky few. Fortunately, the twelve films are also available for streaming here. There’s also a huge wrap party planned for tomorrow night in Brooklyn at Rose Live Music from 10:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m., and a free youth premiere Friday, June 6 at 6:00 at the Paley Center

The screening showcased twelve shorts from across the globe from independent and young first-time filmmakers that will be shared with educators, the media arts community and social activists worldwide. It was a very strong group of films in terms of storytelling and quality of filmmaking, starting with the Jury Award-winning 10-minute Hammoudi, directed by Anwar Saab, about a boy in Lebanon that has experienced an enormous personal tragedy, yet lives with such gusto and joy, reveling in the nourishing support of his family and friends and his own indomitable spirit. Another stand-out for me was Perversion of Justice, a shocking exposé on the justice system. A young mother of three is sentenced to life in prison for a first time drug-related offense. Clocking in at just under eight minutes, it’s a powerfully told story of how law-making “by the books” can destroy innocent lives. This film won the Changemaker Award.

Every Third Bite, created by The Meerkat Media Collective, was delightful and beautifully shot. In the past few years, millions of bees have disappeared from their hives, never to return. This film shows how that directly impacts humankind (and every other ecosystem in existence) in entertaining and eye-opening ways. This collective of young social action filmmakers is something to watch.

A Nomad’s Life is part of a larger feature-length piece being shot in the mountains of Tibet by Lynn True, Nelson Walker, Tsering Perlo and Keefe Murren. Gorgeously photographed, the piece allows us to catch a glimpse of a disappearing world. A young Tibetan couple and their new-born baby girl still live a traditional nomadic existence, but it’s obvious that their survival is questionable against the rapidly modernizing world around them. I’m looking forward to seeing a longer version of this story.

The Countdown packs a wallop. This is a six-minute spoken word piece that won the Emerging Artist Award for Rene Dongo and Sofia Snow. Snow’s composition is one of the most powerful pieces on 9/11, the war in Iraq, hatred, bigotry, terrorism and identity that I’ve seen. Filmed on a rooftop overlooking the New York City skyline, she holds forth, bobbing and weaving as she hypnotically recites her ode to the destruction of something that will have lasting impacts for us all, not only in this generation, but in the ones to come. I was blown away and am trying to grab it for something I’m programming in the Gulf region. It should be broadcast over and over and over again–everywhere.

Click here or here to read more about this year’s festival, the talented group of filmmakers, and how you can get involved.

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Tags: Arts Engine, festivals, film, Katy Chevigny, Media That Matters, shorts