New Youth Film Festival Recognizes Emerging Storytellers

Anah Ambuchi’s short film about bullying, positive self-image and appreciation of African heritage, Made in His Imagewas one of several films screened at Mustard Seed Vision’s 1st Annual Youth Film Festival. Anah is 12 years old.

“Having my film screened here today is really a blessing,” said Ambuchi, whose film also had a special screening at Diversity in Cannes Short Film & Webseries Showcase in France. “Bringing the film to life was the best experience of my entire life.”

“Made in His Image” follows the relationship between a mother and pre-teen daughter in America with a slur directed toward African Americans with distinctive African features such as the hue of their skin. Ambuchi’s mother, Naomi Morin, said the film will be screened again in Chicago, Atlanta and Dallas.

Films like “Made in His Image” will be given an opportunity to be showcased if Mustard Seed Vision’s Youth Film Festival creator and founder Rubye Lane has her way. In partnership with the Gene Siskel Film Center’s Black Harvest Film Festival and Cre8sion Media, the festival provides pre-teen filmmakers with a platform to showcase their skills and follow their dreams. This year’s festival was hosted by youth actors Nadia Simms and Cayen Martin.

Mustard Seed Vision’s 1st Annual Youth Film Festival was held on Saturday, June 1 at the Gene Siskel Film Center, located at 164 N State Street. Participants included third and fourth graders from Kellogg Elementary School, Richard Gallion Entertainment Youth Division and others.

Lane, a Southside native and former television producer in Chicago, said its always been important to her to empower young girls, especially ones who look like her.

“My love and passion for entertainment as it relates to television [and] video production, has always been deeply rooted in me giving [to] the next generation [and] equipping them with the right resources to make their dreams come true,” Lane said. “You don’t have to wait until you’re my age to create, you can take the camera and you can film and you can tell your own story right now.”

Chicago native Avery Kelley, 11, screened her film Back Rowat the festival as well. The inspiration for the film came from sitting in the back row of one of her science classes with some of her friends who would eventually become her best friends. They were aptly named, “The Fearsome Foursome,” she said. In the film, Kelley stars as a member of a group of diverse friends who all bond together in the back row of a classroom.

“I really enjoyed doing this film because I feel like its partially a tribute to myself. And it’s a tribute to them,” Kelley said.

An aspiring actress and dancer, Kelley shared that she has had a passion for writing since she was 7 years old, as well as being in front of the camera and learning how to operate a camera; she called it a “pure art.” She explained that she reached out to Lane for the opportunity to participate in the festival and today calls her a mentor.

“I feel like she’s, like, my grown-up best friend. I love her,” Kelley said. “I feel like being here just opens a lot of doors for me, opens a lot of doors for Back Row[and] opens a lot of doors for my dreams at such a young age.”

The impact of Mustard Seed Vision’s Youth Film Festival was not lost on Kelley.

“I feel like me being only 11 years old, being a strong Black girl just shows people that I can do it,” Kelley said. “You don’t have to be a certain age…as long as you have the passion and determination to do it.”

Chicago native Sylvia Jones won the Trailblazer Award for her work as a writer in the entertainment industry

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