Three student films were recently selected for the All American High School Film Festival, one of the largest and most prestigious film festivals of its kind. Rising seniors Jason Lin and Ajay Mdala created the short film “Duality” for Nicholas Manjoine’s English class, in which students developed creative projects based on the works studied in class. “Ajay and I had made our own films before, so we decided to partner up to make a short film,” said Lin. “We chose Emerson and Thoreau texts because we felt that they exposed meaningful relationships between individuals and society.”
“Duality” was structured to reflect the two creators’ perspectives, “mine representing nature and Jason’s representing society,” Adala said. “We used quotes about nature and society from Emerson and Thoreau to contrast the difference between the two. The way I represented nature and the way Jason represented society were decidedly opposites of each other.”
Lin and Madala worked on the film separately, each creating their own half without managing the other’s portion. “I know Jason as a great filmmaker and knew he would do a good job,” said Madala. “He also had trusted me as a filmmaker and believed I would make something up to the task.” Once each half of the film was ready, a transition from one section of the film to the next was added to make the film function as a whole.
Madala’s own film, titled “Stay Inside,” was also chosen for the All-American High School Film Festival. A surrealist work that deals with feelings of isolation, boredom and confusion during the COVID-19 pandemic, the film was inspired by Madala’s readings “about a person who wakes up in a room and has no idea how they got there, why they’re there or even who they are,” he said. “I immediately connected this to quarantine and started writing.”
“Stay Inside” is purposefully light on dialogue and narrative structure and was originally 15 minutes long. “The festival had a time limit on their shorts so I decided to make a much shorter version that would encapsulate the same energy and tone of the 15-minute version with even less dialogue and plot,” said Madala.
Both filmmakers expressed surprise at being selected for the All-American High School Film Festival, with Lin describing his own reaction as “incredulous disbelief.” Madala found after checking the festival’s Twitter account, which posted the list of selections that included “Duality,” “Stay Inside,” and “Cmd-Delete,” a film Lin created with classmates Sara Yen and Amar Karoshi that was named the grand prize winner of C-SPAN’s StudentCam contest in March.
The All American High School Film Festival, historically held in New York City, takes place Oct. 9-11 and will be hosted online this year due to closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.