By Hannah E. Jones
Between streaming services, the 24-hour news cycle, and endless social media feeds, we’re constantly bombarded with content — and not everything is uplifting. The younger generation is no exception. The average American child will witness 200,000 acts of media violence before their 18th birthday, according the American Psychiatric Association, which makes positive messages all the more important for young viewers.
To combat this potentially negative content, the Atlanta Children’s Film Festival is back for its 15th year, featuring 60 short films from filmmakers around the world, all with positive messages for younger generations.
The annual festival is presented by Kids video connection (KVC), a local nonprofit that uses video production as a way to teach kids of all ages the media literacy skills they need to navigate the online world.
Co-founder and CEO Alesia Johnson said she started KVC after volunteering with local elementary school children. One day she asked about their favorite shows and a boy who often got in trouble for being rowdy said his favorite was wrestling.
“He was in trouble because he was putting kids in his head and trying to run them over. In his mind, he’s playing,” Johnson said. “I started researching [their favorite shows,] I watched the children and saw that they tried to imitate their favorite characters. I realized that it really affected the behavior of these children.
This aha moment led to the creation of the KVC in 2006 and, a year later, the short film festival. The festival was originally called the KVC Children’s Film Festival, but after adding Atlanta to the name this year, the nonprofit received twice as many submissions as the previous year.
For the 2022 festival, KVC received 102 film submissions from young filmmakers and veteran filmmakers from 14 countries around the world, and selected 60. Screenings will take place at Emory University, with a virtual viewing option.
And film screenings aren’t the only items on the agenda. The festival also includes programs for young people of all ages interested in production, such as an industry panel, media career fair, theater workshop and more. Over the years, Johnson has seen these workshops have a real impact on certain student career trajectories.
“One of our board members, Phebe Dowels, was a student at our first teen video production workshop in 2008,” Johnson said. “She later went to Georgia State University to major in broadcast journalism and then started producing videos for small businesses. Later, she sent me a beautiful letter saying, “Thank you for helping me with this first workshop and opening my eyes to this career.”
Beyond learning about the role of a director or the animation process, the KVC team is dedicated to helping younger generations navigate the virtual landscape thoughtfully, think critically about online messaging and ultimately consuming content that makes them feel good.
“We teach them that all media messages are constructed to make you think or feel a certain way,” Johnson said. “We help kids build media literacy skills so they can analyze what they watch and make a smarter media choice.”
She continued, “We also want them to have hope for the future by watching positive movies. We hope that by watching some of these films, they will be inspired to be themselves.
From now until Saturday, July 23, people can attend in-person and online screenings of the 60 shorts and informational workshops. Click here to see the schedule and buy tickets.
Click the link below to watch an interview between KVC trainee Kheyal Roy-Meighoo and Emmy Award-winning host Alyssa Lewis.