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San Francisco Film Society
San Francisco Film Society
The San Francisco Film Society is pleased to present the fifth annual Schools at the Festival Student Essay Contest at the 56th San Francisco International Festival. This contest is made possible by the generous support of the Nellie Wong Magic of Movies Education Fund, endowed by Tim Kochis and SFFS board member Penelope Wong to honor the memory of her mother, Nellie Wong (1917–2007), who was an avid filmgoer and cinephile. Developed to support the year-round outreach efforts of the SFFS Youth Education program, the Fund aims to cultivate students’ imaginations, enhance their critical thinking and creative writing skills and instill a greater appreciation for the magic of movies in young audiences of the Bay Area.


Winning essays will be determined based on creativity, depth, enthusiasm, clarity, grammar and relevance to the essay questions. Essays must be written in response to the following questions about the selected Schools at the Festival screenings ONLY. You can answer one or more questions for each film. You are not required to answer all of the questions listed for a film:


(Students may choose one film program or submit separate essays for more than one program):

Shorts: Family Films, screening at 10:00am Friday, May 3 and 10:00am Monday, May 6
Q: Choose one film you saw in the program. What did you like about that film? Does the main character’s life or experiences compare to your own? If so, how? What lessons did you learn from their story? (Note: the character does not have to be human!)
Ernest & Celestine, screening at 10:00am Monday, April 29 and 10:00am Wednesday, May 1
Q: At the end of the film, Ernest and Celestine decide to tell their story, but they change some of the details. Which details do they change, and why? Do you agree with their decision to rewrite their story? How do you think the story of Ernest and Celestine will change life in the mouse and bear worlds? Can stories help people to overcome prejudice? If so, how? Can you give an example from your own life?


(Students may choose one film program or submit separate essays for more than one program):

A Lovely Day, screening at 10:00am Tuesday, April 30
Q: Beats Rhymes and Life is a program that teaches young people to reclaim traumatic memories by turning them into music. Many famous musicians and artists have used a similar strategy, incorporating their own life stories and memories into music and artwork. Choose an artist who inspires you, and explain how he or she uses personal history and memory in the creative process. What are the benefits from making music or art out of a painful experience?

Maidentrip, screening at 10:00am Wednesday, May 8
Q: Laura Dekker’s decision to sail around the world instead of going to high school created a major legal controversy in the Netherlands. Do you agree with the court’s decision to grant her the freedom to make her journey? Should all young people be given that kind of freedom, or is it better for some students to learn in a structured environment? What are the benefits and drawbacks of growing up in school vs. growing up on an adventure? Can you imagine yourself or someone you know doing this?

Tall as the Baobab Tree, screening at 10:00am Tuesday, May 7
Q: In spite of Coumba’s efforts, the village elder rules that Debo must be sold into marriage. Debo is taken away, and it seems that tradition has triumphed over modernity. But the film ends with Coumba and Amady talking about the future. What is the message at the end of the film? What do you think life has in store for Coumba? What will become of Debo? What do you think the future looks like in the village of Sinthiou Mbadane? What would you have done if you were Coumba or Debo, growing up in their world?

HIGH SCHOOL, Grades 9-12

(Students may choose one film program or submit separate essays for more than one program):

Inequality for All, screening at 12:30pm Friday, May 3
Q: Robert Reich uses the image of a suspension bridge to illustrate the history of income inequality in the US over the course of the 20th century. What argument is Reich making about the historical, political, and economic factors that determine inequality? Is his argument valid? Compare your assumptions about income disparity before and after watching the film. What is your definition of a healthy society; should everyone’s income be equal, or is some inequality good for us? What can your generation do to define and create a healthy American society? Compare your opportunities and challenges to those that your parents faced when they were your age. What is different, and what is the same?

The Kill Team, screening at 12:30pm Monday, May 6
Q: Several of the soldiers interviewed admit that life in the army was different than they had imagined it. Where do you see images of the military in American media and culture? How do they describe the life of a soldier? How do you think media (e.g. TV, film, video games) has shaped your own and your peers’ understanding of violence and modern war? How is media violence different than real violence, and why do we enjoy watching it fictionalized but not in reality? Should we change the way we consume violence as a culture, and if so, why? How does the myth of the military in US media work to strengthen the army, and how does it weaken it?

Much Ado About Nothing, screening at 12:30pm Monday, April 29
Q: Which elements of the film are modern and which feel like they come from the past? Do you think filmmakers should stick with the original story, setting and dialogue when remaking a Shakespeare play? Does a modern interpretation make the story relevant and accessible to a wider audience, or does it compromise the integrity of the story? We consider Shakespeare’s work to be great literature, but in its time, it was popular entertainment. Imagine you are 400 years in the future, looking back at our time through the lens of history. Do you think filmmaker Joss Whedon will be considered a great artist? What about other contemporary filmmakers? Why or why not?


Length of Essays
• Grades 2–5: 150–200 words
• Grades 6–8: 300–350 words
• Grades 9–12: 450–500 words

Essays must be postmarked by May 18, 2013.

Submit essays by mail to:
San Francisco Film Society
Attn: Nellie Wong Essay Contest
39 Mesa Street, Suite 110
The Presidio
San Francisco CA 94129

To be eligible for consideration, all essays must include the following information:
• Student Name
• Grade
• School
• Teacher Name
• Teacher Phone Number
• Teacher Email Address

Click here to enter your submission online


Contest winners will be announced the week of June 3, 2013. Teachers will be notified directly if their students have won. The following prizes will be awarded:

Elementary School Grades 2–5
• Grand Prize: $150 cash prize
• Runner-up: $50 cash prize

Middle School Grades 6–8
• Grand Prize: $300 cash prize
• Runner-up: $100 cash prize

High School Grades 9–12
• Grand Prize: $500 cash prize
• Runner-up: $150 cash prize

All winning essays will be published on
www.sffs.org. For questions, contact Keith Zwölfer at 415-561-5040 or kzwolfer@sffs.org

DEVELOPER'S NOTE: http://old.sffs.org/content.aspx?catid=927,1033,1035&pageid=960