Andover’s First-Ever Film Festival Celebrates Student Filmmakers Across New England

Heads of Movie Makers Club ND Nwaneri ’24 and Kevin Chen ’24 present at the beginning of the Film Festival.

Nd Nwaneri ’24 and Kevin Chen ’24 alongside Junko Pinkowski pose as Chen holds up his prize for winning the competition.

Above is Kevin Chen ’24’s film, “Echoes,” which won first place in Andover’s Film Festival.

The chatter of the audience died down to silence as a still shot of Rabbit Pond lit up the projector. Throughout 12 short films, the audience experienced an emotional rollercoaster, ranging from dramatic five-minute movies to witty and comedic 30-second shorts. The captivating films portrayed a wide range of topics, including a fictional portrayal of life in prison, the personal experiences of a student dealing with homesickness at boarding school, and several satirical public service announcements.

This past Saturday, Andover Movie Makers Club hosted its first-ever Andover Film Festival in Kemper Auditorium. The festival featured 12 original short films produced by students at schools from across New England, including Andover, Andover High School, Hotchkiss, and Choate. The club invited a panel of three judges to choose three honorable mentions and a first-place winner from the collection of films. Andover Movie Makers Club Co-Head ND Nwaneri ’24 offered some insight into the conception of the idea and organization behind the event.

“Over the summer, we were doing some planning with the board, and I was like, ‘Wouldn’t it be really cool to have a high school film competition?’ Because I thought that would be sick. [Everyone] agreed, and then five months, 12 submissions, and four schools later, here we are,” said Nwaneri.

Faculty advisor to the club, Junko Pinkowski, Instructor in Art, played a large role in reaching out to students from other schools and encouraging them to submit their work, bringing a broader filmmaking community and a more diverse array of stories to Andover’s campus. Zoe von Eckartsberg ’26 commented on this marked aspect of the festival.

“I didn’t even know that it was a film competition between other schools, so I was really surprised to hear that submissions from Andover High, Choate, and Hotchkiss were also part of it… It was also really cool to see how other kids from the schools came, mainly just from Andover High School, but…they had a bigger community there,” said von Eckartsberg.

Filmmakers themselves were given the freedom to make a film about whatever topic they wanted to and in whatever cinematography style they felt was fitting. They had to navigate how to write, shoot, and edit a film, and convey a message of their choosing. Grace Kim ’27, who helped produce one of the films, spoke about the intention behind their short film, “Ephemeral Dusk.”

“I was trying to convey the message of growing up and how growing up is sudden and that sort of enlightenment… Maturity comes to you very similarly… [The event] was amazing, there were so many good movies, and I feel even more inspired now,” said Kim.

In the end, Kevin Chen ’24’s film “Echoes” won first place. The emotionally impactful film featured Guilherme Lima ’24 as well as Chen himself in a series and overlay of shots, while a monologue voiced by Chen played in the background. The candid shots and intimate dialogue, told through a letter to the narrator’s friend, expressed a sense of sensitivity and vulnerability as the narrator grappled with complex feelings. Pinkowski, a member of the judging panel, praised the short film when presenting its first-place award.

“Bold in its subject matter and courageous in its humility, ‘Echoes’ brought well-coordinated cinematography to offer a glimpse into the uncertainty and insecurity of an emerging passion… This film allowed the audience to wander in precarious and evolving feelings themselves as close-ups on unstable footing aligned with curiosity in the voice-over to instill a parallel sense of discovery for [the] audience and narrator alike. And the importance of the bold, authentic, and humble message allowed the audience the opportunity to make an often alienated and marginalized viewpoint charmingly familiar,” said Pinkowski.

The concept of the event as a whole also received praise for connecting students who attend different schools but shared a passion for filmmaking, and for providing a platform to showcase talented directors, producers, and actors at the high school level. Pinkowski expressed admiration for the participants and organizers and offered his advice and encouragement.

“The idea of putting together a film fest that draws from across New England, at the high school level, especially within a short period of time, is phenomenal. It’s a gesture, or a testament rather to the enthusiasm that exists here and in other places, and the need for it, right? To get something like this up and running at this age is so impressive. The talent in the films themselves is really inspiring. I think people who don’t make films often don’t realize how hard of a process it is, and the editing and the hours that go into it… I think that the more one spends time in the editing process of film, the more one realizes the great variety of power tools available to make film… The list goes on and on and on with effects. And then suddenly, you look up a few years later, and you’re making these wonderful pieces… Just stay at it would be my advice,” said Pinkowski.

Editor’s Note: Kevin Chen ’24 is a Video Editor for The Phillipian.