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90-Second Newbery Film Festival in Portland Recap

March 8, 2012

Last Saturday we screened the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival in Portland, OR at the Central Library in the Multnomah County Public Library System. It went off beautifully! And just as at our New York screening and Chicago screening, there was an overflow crowd (over 150 people!). But I think everyone who really wanted to get in, got in. I know all the young filmmakers did.

I couldn’t have done it without the fine folks at the library, such as Sarah Mead, Cynthia Strasfeld, and Violeta Garza (my old friend from my JET days). The whole thing was suggested by Alice McKee, who also got me in to speak at Laurelhurst School, whose classes did these delightful versions of The Witch of Blackbird Pond and When You Reach Me. Clown Heather Pearl helped out at the screening too, which I appreciated. My friends Joe Fusion and Madeleine Steele were kind enough to let me stay at their house for the week (only a few blocks from Klickitat Street of the Ramona books!). And thanks to Erin Fitzpatrick-Bjorn for taking all these pictures.

But the person I relied on most when I was onstage was my co-host, YA author Laini Taylor, who was always ready with a bit of Newbery trivia or embarrassing anecdote about my past to trip me up. She’s the one with the pink hair:

The afternoon was kicked off with librarian Joel Craft’s Newbery theme song, and there was some music in the show by teenaged Portland band The Great Train Robbery. Thanks, gentlemen!

Special thanks to Portland author Dale Basye, of the popular and amusing Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go series, who (along with this audience participant) brought the funny for our “$20,000 Newbery Pyramid” game show segment:

From Portland we received two versions of Lois Lowry’s 1994 Newbery Medal winner The Giver, from the Troutdale Library and the North Portland Teen Council, which I haven’t yet featured on the blog. The filmmakers were at the film festival in force, and the thing I like most about these videos is that they both seem to have endings that I don’t remember from the book: in Troutdale’s version, it ends by everyone suddenly getting their memories back and descending into a good ole fashioned community freakout, and in North Portland’s version, it looks like poor Jonas just freezes to death in the cold (actually, re-reading the ending, that’s a possible interpretation of what actually happens). First, Troutdale:

This is one of the more aggressively bonkers versions of The Giver I’ve received. The kid who plays the Giver is the most goofily lackadaisical, I-just-don’t-care Giver ever. “Figure it out.” Loved. It. All the actors were great, actually. Such joyous energy from everyone! But the best part was the insane ending. “Uh-oh, someone crossed the border! The memories!!! They’re back!!!!” And everyone shrieking and crying, “WHY WOULD THEY DO THIS?!?!” was off-the-rails, to-the-moon, what-the-who-the-hey madness.

Now, North Portland’s version:

Another winner! I liked how they switched from black and white to color . . . and, er, is there a Twilight reference with the way the apple is held? Poor Jonas: as I said, the ending kind of seems like he just dies somewhere in the snow! Maybe that’s how the book should’ve ended . . . ?

We also played the “Is it Snooki or is it Newbery?” game show again, as we had in New York and Chicago. But we didn’t realize until halfway through the game that our volunteer kid didn’t even know who Snooki was! (a revelation which inspired an actual cheer from the audience, along with someone roaring in the back, “That’s Portland!”):

All in all, another fun and satisfying (and exhausting!) 90-Second Newbery screening. Thanks, everyone, for coming out. And thanks especially to the young filmmakers who made it all possible!

I’m looking forward to coming back to Portland for another one next year!