Cinemakids Survives

Cinematexas might be in hibernation, but its little sister, Cinemakids, is still going strong. The two-day annual event, originally launched in 2000 as part of Cinematexas, begins again this weekend, offering two programs of shorts made by young people, followed by free, hands-on media training for kids ages 7 through 12.

Like Cinematexas, Cinemakids has grown exponentially and gone international over the years, despite a shifting base of volunteers, changes in venue, and other hurdles.

"Pretty much all the films that we're screening [this year] are new, and we have more of an international focus than we've had in the past," says Mary Celeste Kearney, founder and director of Cinemakids. "This year we have a group of films from Argentina, so that's new and different."

Also featured this year is a familiar name: Linklater. Lorelei Linklater, to be exact. Her short film "Blithka" screens during Saturday's program.

Cinemakids was born when Cinematexas co-founder Athina Rachel Tsangari approached Kearney in search of a faculty adviser. "I think because I was new blood, someone pointed them in my direction," says Kearney, who'd just been hired by the Department of Radio-Television-Film.

"Originally, it was just going to be a screening festival, like the rest of Cinematexas. So the first year I believe we just showed a few films. I think even a few of the films that we screened were not entirely made by kids but had a lot of adult involvement. That's changed dramatically. Anything that we see that has considerable adult involvement we don't even consider [as] a possible selection. The kids' films themselves are entirely self-made."

In its second year, Cinemakids introduced its media workshops, which brought Cinematexas volunteers and local kids together at the Austin Children's Museum with Super-8 cameras. Later, the event moved to various East Austin recreational centers ("I wanted to make sure kids who don't have access to camera equipment in their schools got cameras in their hands," Kearney says) before settling in at UT's production facilities.

Participation in the event also has grown, from "maybe 15 kids the first year" to its full capacity of 50.

And the age limit has dropped this year, with the festival open to kids as young as 6. "They're more creative than a lot of 10-year-olds are," Kearney says, "so I'm happy to have the little ones in it."

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