Ya’ know, middle school can be complicated. There’s a lot going on in these minds and bodies. This amazing short and inspiring feature film both capture how some middle schoolers are trying to figure it all out.

ZERO GRAVITY follows a diverse group of middle-school students from San Jose, CA, who compete in a nationwide tournament to code satellites aboard the International Space Station. Does Rhode Island have a middle school that participates? Join us to ask the director, Thomas Verette in a live (virtual) Q&A on February 25th at 11:00am. To sign up go to Reel Connections link on our home page.

Y’ALL R REAL ONES: U.S. Premiere! A rare glimpse into the daily lives of early adolescents in one public middle school in New York City and a glorious reminder of what school can be when everyone is together — featuring an ensemble of diverse tweens and faculty members who embrace the messiness of these joyous years. (2021 / 10 mins / USA / dir. Camilla Calamandrei / in English / ages 10+)

This compilation of four films has multiple, thought-provoking topics to think about, and hopefully after, talk about. They include the struggles of young, Afghani women being musicians in a time when it looks like the Taliban will be coming back to power. Other films from the Netherlands and Argentina follow families who are dealing with children on gender journeys unfamiliar to them. The last film, 2nd Class, is quite relevant to what is happening here in our own country when it comes to reacting to white supremacists. The reel includes the following films…

SOMETHING ABOUT ALEX – A young teenager develops a close friendship with his older sister’s boyfriend, and must confront the depth of his feelings when the couple announces that they will be moving away. (2017 / 18 mins / Netherlands / dir Reinout Hellenthal / live-action / Dutch w/English subtitles)

ORCHESTRA FROM THE LAND OF SILENCE – You’ll defeat the beast with the power of music. Zohra – the first female orchestra of Afghanistan. Girls are preparing for their journey to play a concert in Europe. We see their everyday reality in contemporary Afghanistan through the eyes of 16-year-old girl Marzia. After arriving in Europe unexpected thing happens and four members of the orchestra decide to run away… (2020 / 30 mins / Afghanistan, Slovakia / dir Lucia Kasova / documentary / English, Persian and Slovak w/English subtitles)

THE NAME OF THE SON (El Nombre del Hijo) Lucho, a 13-year-old trans boy, doesn’t usually share much time with his father. When he goes on vacation with him and his younger sister, the new closeness puts their relationship to the test. (2020 / 13 mins / Argentina / dir Martina Matzkin / live-action / Spanish w/English subtitles)

2ND CLASS (2ND CLASS – 2021 Special Jury Award Best Short Live-Action Film!) This is a story about an elementary school teacher who is violently attacked one night by a neo-Nazi. After healing enough to return to the classroom she finds out that the man who attacked her is one of her student’s fathers. What does she do? And why? This film demands a conversation after viewing. WARNING: Graphic scene with profanity. Recommended age 13+ (2018 / 13 mins / Sweden / dir Martina Matzkin / live-action / Swedish w/English subtitles)

 

In a province in the middle of the Mongolian steppe, 11-year old Amra lives a traditional nomad life with his mother Zaya, father Erdene, and little sister Altaa. While Zaya takes care of the flock, Erdene works as a mechanic and sells Zaya’s homemade cheese at the local market. Their peaceful routine is threatened by the encroachment of international mining companies, digging for gold and devastating the natural habitat. Erdene is the leader of the last nomads opposing them and tries to unite and convince his comrades not to accept the compensations the companies have offered. But after Amra’s father dies in a tragic car accident, his mother wants to give up the nomad life and trade the steppe for the city. But Amra refuses and tries to carry on his father’s David vs. Goliath fight with his cleverness and the tools of an 11-year-old boy.

PCFF Winner Audience Choice Award Best Documentary 2020

Microplastic Madness is an inspirational and optimistic take on the local and global plastic pollution crisis as told through an urban youth point of view with a powerful take action message.

Fifth graders from PS 15 in Red Hook, Brooklyn -a community on the frontline of climate change that was severely impacted by Superstorm Sandy- spent 2 years investigating plastic pollution. Taking on the roles of citizen scientists, community leaders, and advocates, these 10-11-year-olds collect local data, lead community outreach, and use their impressive data to inform policy, testifying and rallying at City Hall. They take a deep dive into the root causes of plastic pollution, bridging the connection between plastic, climate change, and environmental justice before turning their focus back to school. There they take action to rid their cafeteria of all single-use plastic, driving forward city-wide action and a scalable, youth-led plastic-free movement.

With stop-motion animation, heartfelt kid commentary, and interviews of experts and renowned scientists who are engaged in the most cutting edge research on the harmful effects of microplastics, this alarming, yet charming narrative, conveys an urgent message in user-friendly terms with a take action message to spark youth-led plastic-free action in schools everywhere.

Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly is a 56-minute narrated film that unfolds along the shores of Cape Ann to the heart of Mexico’s forested volcanic mountains. Every stage of the butterfly’s life cycle is experienced in vibrant close-up, from mating to egg to caterpillar to adult, and set against the backdrop of sea and forest, sun and wind.

By the millions the intrepid Monarchs journey thousands of miles. The most magical thing is that this migration happens in our midst, unfolding in backyards, farms, meadows, and along the shoreline, wherever milkweed and wildflowers grow.

No other butterflies in the world journey thousands of miles over such a vast area. Monarchs do not see borders, religion, ethnicities, or political differences. They are a symbol of unity, ecologically linking Canada and Mexico, and nearly every region within the United States.

The Monarchs are in great peril. Although the butterfly’s spectacular migration evolved over millennia, the last decades of human activity have put this phenomenon in grave danger. Beauty on the Wing is a film for all ages, created to instill a deeper understanding of the symbiotic relationship between habitats, wildflowers, and pollinators, and the vital role they play in our interconnected ecosystems.

Filmed in Gloucester, Massachusetts and the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserves at Estado de México and Michoacán, the film illuminates how two regions, separated by thousands of miles, are ecologically interconnected.

2016 Festival Flashback!! Five years ago we invited this thought-provoking documentary to our festival. With the situation in the Middle East still far from resolution, this film speaks volumes about the hurdles people face to live in peace.

ALMOST FRIENDS is a documentary about two Israeli girls—an Arab and a Jew—who live only 40 miles away but in many ways live worlds apart. Participating in an online program that fosters educational exchange and friendship, the two girls correspond with caution and eventually meet face-to-face. The experience is profoundly moving for them, their families, and the audiences who see this touching film. But when conflict spans generations, change is slow and “almost” anything might be a start…

 

What happens when a diverse group of LGBTQ youth dares to be “out” on stage to reveal their lives and their loves? THE YEAR WE THOUGHT ABOUT LOVE goes behind the scenes of one of the oldest queer youth theaters in America, with a camera crew slipping into classrooms, kitchens, subways and rehearsal rooms. Boston-based True Colors OUT Youth Theater transforms daily struggles into performance for social change. With wit, candor and attitude, this cast of characters captivates audiences who may be surprised to hear such stories in school settings. THE YEAR WE THOUGHT ABOUT LOVE introduces a transgender teenager kicked out of her house, a devout Christian challenging his church’s homophobia and a girl who prefers to wear boys’ clothing even as she models dresses on the runway. When real bombs explode outside their building, the troupe becomes even more determined to share their stories of love to help heal their city. Brave, encouraging, and funny…these are the inspiring LGBTQ youth leading us into the future.

Demolishing stereotypes without wrecking their cars, the Speed Sisters are the Middle East’s first all-female car racing team. With high-octane talent and the marketing savvy to draw attention to their camera-friendly lineup, this diverse, engaging, real-life group competes throughout the West Bank in Palestine’s makeshift motor sports circuit. They navigate Israeli checkpoints and restrictive societal expectations to evolve into potential role models for a new generation of young Arab women.

 

“T-Rex” is an intimate, true coming-of-age story about a new kind of American heroine. in 2012, women’s boxing debuted at the 2012 Olympics. Fighting for gold from the USA is Claressa “T-Rex” Shields, just 17 years old and by far the youngest competitor. From the hard knock streets of Flint, Mich., Claressa is undefeated and utterly confident. Her fierceness extends beyond the ring as he protects her family at any cost, even when their instability and addictions threaten to derail her dream. Claressa does have one stable force in her life. Coach Jason Crutchfield has trained her since she was just a scrawny 11-year-old hanging out at his gym. Jason always wanted a champion, but never thought it’d be a girl. Her relationships with her coach and her family grow tense as she gets closer to her dream, but Claressa is determined. She desperately wants to take her family to a better, safer place and winning a gold medal could be her only chance.

How do children born into poverty find hope? This documentary follows the lives of a garbage picker, a music teacher and a group of children from Cateura, Paraguay. In this slum, they create musical instruments entirely out of garbage: first out of necessity, but the project became so much more. LANDFILL HARMONIC brings us on their journey from local village orchestra to world traveling (internet fueled) troupe whose trajectory of success is enhanced by their trash-into-music message.

Winner of the 2015 Audience Choice Award SXSW
Winner of the 2015 Audience Choice Award AFI