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Photo by Tulsi Shaw Poster for Tulsi Shaw’s film, The Proof is in the Jello, winner of Best Middle School Animated Film at Film Prize Jr. NM awards.

Questa Students win at film festival

ALBUQUERQUE, NM – Questa students won two awards at a statewide youth film festival. Tulsi Shaw, who is home-schooled, won Best Middle School Animated Film and Roots and Wings Community School won Best Middle School Comedy.

Student filmmakers, teachers and parents packed the Historic Lobo theater on April 3 for the Award Ceremony for Film Prize Jr NM’s 2nd annual student short film festival. Twenty-four winning films were announced and over $7,000 in scholarships and media grants were awarded at the livestreamed ceremony.

Roots & Wings Courtesy Photo; Roots and Wings Community School students who won Best Middle School Comedy for their film School Daze. From left to right: Autumn Huck, Bodhi Fleming, Aliyn Dunbar and teacher Evan Sanchez.

Tulsi Shaw, a homeschool student from Questa, repeated as Best Animated Film winner for her jaw-dropping ghost detective story, The Proof is in the Jello. (In 2022, Shaw’s film “Earth” won the judges’ choice for the middle school Grand Prize.) Questa also produced the middle school Best Comedy, with School Daze from Roots and Wings Community School.

Jesse Thompson, a resident of El Rito, is the animation teacher who mentored students who created The Taste of Loneliness from Taos Integrated School of the Arts. They won both the Best Drama and Middle School Grand Prize Award for their story about how food helps a teen cope with the loss of his father. Peñasco Middle School entered the Middle School Founders Circle for their film Zombie Garden.

The festival, presented by the Film Prize Foundation, was held at the Albuquerque Convention Center on April 1, with 93 student films featured, an all-time record. The short films were created by middle and high school students from over 50 schools in 20 New Mexico counties, most of which serve small, rural communities. Seventeen films were created by Native students, with support from the Institute of American Indian Arts.

This year featured the festival’s largest crowd of students, teachers and families watching the films, attending panel discussions with film industry professionals, attending hands-on equipment demos by College of New Mexico film department, and voting for the audience choice awards.

“Watching the students watch their films, seeing them connect with one another and celebrating their achievements are what Film Prize Junior is all about,” said Film Prize Jr NM Director Rosey Hayett. “This was an incredibly inspiring weekend, and we can’t wait to gear up and start next year’s Film Prize Junior program.”

The Film Prize Junior program supports middle and high school classrooms as well as summer and afterschool programs to experience the entire process of creating a short film, from story and script development, to production and editing. The program organizers believe that the process, which culminates in all completed films featured on the big screen at the festival, is transformative for the kids.
Over $7,000 in scholarships and media grants were awarded to winning films, with the goal of helping to establish film programs at schools across the state. Film Prize Jr NM is supported in part by the NM Public Education and Cultural Affairs Departments, as well as the Robert T. Keeler, Cudd Family and Thornburg Foundations, Santa Fe Film Office, Regional Development Corporation, Adobe and Meow Wolf. To learn more about Film Prize Jr NM and to view all the films for the Virtual Festival from April 25–May 2, visit FilmPrizeNM.com.

Rosey Hayett works with The Prize Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 2012 and based out of Shreveport, LA. Their mission is to promote economic growth, workforce development, youth job training, creative class entrepreneurial buildout and increased tourism through education, entrepreneurship, conferences, contests and festivals. The Prize Foundation operates six major initiatives year-’round, each prize has a qualification process, engagement with economic and cultural resources, and an educational component.