Now in its third year, Spotlight celebrates the best of local high school filmmaking, handing out awards in the categories of documentary, narrative, and experimental. Spotlight also has some serious philanthropic heft, with this year’s festival raising $8000 for Sketch.
Apart from the social good aspect, though, Spotlight also has a lot of artistic merit to offer. This year’s award winners – picked by a judging panel of industry professionals – were all maturely executed and high-quality offerings from such young filmmakers.
I’m not sure exactly what I expected when I walked into a screening of films made by high school students, but it definitely wasn’t an experimental animated documentary about vintage Hollywood starlet Eartha Kitt. But indeed, James Perry’s You Must Think About That One Again was a standout of the night, bringing Kitt’s fiery and still-relevant monologue on female independence to life through elegant typography and an arresting animation style.
Elsewhere, I saw films that prominently featured Super 8 home movies, old family photographs, and even an old stereo receiver with magical time-traveling abilities. Maybe I’m just a jaded 20-something who will soon be rambling about “the good old days”, but I did find it heartening to see a lot of these young filmmakers looking back and celebrating technology and art that is several decades older than they are.
However, the night wasn’t all about odes to analog technology. One of the other highlights was Carol Nguyen’s This Home is Not Empty, a stunningly filmed examination of intricate 3D paper models that rightfully won the experimental category. Elsewhere, Tristan Surman’s stylish A Dying Man Named Steve tied for first in the narrative category and proved to be an audience favourite thanks to its biting, blackly comic story of a terminally ill young man who just wants to find a home for his unlikeable dog once he’s gone.
In terms of raising money for a great cause and celebrating the next wave of Toronto filmmakers, the night was all-around fun and hopeful. It’s always great to see so much young talent on display.