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90-Second Newbery Film Festival 2015: Minneapolis!

March 11, 2015

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The 90-Second Newbery Film Festival relies on your donations! Want to support what we’re doing? Please donate the 90-Second Newbery here! We are a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization.

Phew! Last weekend we put on the final screenings of our fourth annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival at the New York Public Library and the Brooklyn Public Library. I’ll blog about those later. But first I’m overdue in blogging about the raucous, joyous, first-ever 90-Second Newbery screening in MINNEAPOLIS on Saturday, February 28!

Thanks so much to Jennifer Verbrugge and Jen Nelson at Minnesota Department of Education’s State Library Services for doing the heavy lifting to make this happen (and Janet Piehl of the Wilmette Library for putting us in touch). They arranged for me to visit schools all around the Minneapolis area to promote the festival, and worked hard to put the word out themselves. As a result we had a bumper crop of 35+ videos from Minnesota in our first year! They don’t do things halfway in Minnesota!

I also must thank my fantastic co-host Kelly Barnhill (author of The Witch’s Boy and other great books), who instantly connected with the audience, sang and danced our opening number like a pro, and made hosting the screening stress-free and fun. I’m looking forward to doing it with her next year, too!

And of course thanks to all the filmmakers, many of whom showed up for the screening, joining the audience who packed the 235-seat Pohlad Hall at the Minneapolis Central Library:

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Let’s take a look at some of these great Minnesota videos . . .

This first one is submitted from Jamie Molitor’s Media Arts class from the Fine Arts Interdisciplinary Resource (FAIR) School in Crystal, MN. It’s the story of Louis Sachar’s 1999 Newbery Medal winner Holes, told as a rap! If you’ve ever wondered what Minnesota-style rap is like, we’ve got you covered. These students created the beat from scratch, too. IS THERE NOTHING THESE FOLKS CAN’T DO? I love, love it:

Favorite bit: ending on the line about “making it rain,” and then adding in a deadpan tone, “seriously… it rains at the end of the book” with a thousand-mile stare at the camera. Hilarious, resourceful, and a crowd favorite in every city where I’ve shown it!

Stop-motion Lego adaptations of Newbery winners are always welcome, especially if they’re as meticulously detailed and amusingly told as this movie of Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s 1992 Medal winner Shiloh, done by Miles Fischer of Worthington, MN:

I loved how Jud has a three-headed Cerberus dog just hanging around, and is wearing a Superman shirt for some reason. I was truly impressed by the snakes, fish, rat, and spiders all frolicking about, it really made the forest feel “alive.” Fantastic montage of our hero doing chores . . . especially how he seems to be using the Force to magically sweep away all the junk from the yard!

The large cast of amusing animals and the straightforward pleasure of the hero’s problem-solving make Ruth S. Gannett’s 1949 Honor Book My Father’s Dragon a great choice for a 90-Second Newbery. Patricia Armstrong’s third-grade class from Aquila Elementary does a bang-up job with it, and it’s clear they’re having fun, too:

Clear storytelling is hard when you have only 90 seconds, so I really appreciate how this video, even with its many scenes, makes total sense. Elmer’s desire is clear form the beginning. Good bird twitter sound effects throughout, and great costumes for cat, tiger, rhino, and lion, dragon, and monkeys and apes—costumes can make all the difference! I liked the resourceful crocodile puppets (“watch the tail sonny boy!”) and I liked how the dragon was “so ready to get out of here.” Splendid job!

Attention 90-Second Newbery hopefuls: one of the quickest ways to my heart is by adapting Rita Williams Garcia’s 2011 Honor Book One Crazy Summer, one of my favorite Newbery books which I feel really should’ve taken the medal. It’s here adapted with ingenuity, warmth, and sensitivity by third graders Liv, Stephanie, Ellie, and Audrey:

I was charmed by Liv, Stephanie, Ellie, and Audrey’s sweet take on the material. The way they bicker was very believable acting. And the movie was overflowing with great 60s-style clothes. The way they represented the interior of an airplane at the beginning was marvelously resourceful. I loved the emotion in the exchange of “Who is it?” “It’s your daughters!” “Girls, go to your room!” Great fight over Miss Pattycake too, and the poetry recital at the end effectively brought it all together. Great work!

There are so many more wonderful entries from Minnesota—too many for me to feature in one post! I will get them all up on the website in time. THANKS AGAIN for all the great entries, Minnesota!

Finally, here’s our closing montage that showcases all the movies featured at the Minneapolis screening:

Thanks again, Minnesota! Never too early to get cracking for next year!

The 90-Second Newbery Film Festival relies on your donations! Want to support what we’re doing? Please donate the 90-Second Newbery here! We are a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization.