Correction appended

Along with other teams of New Mexico high schoolers and middle schoolers, from over 50 schools in 20 counties, I’ve spent the last couple of months making a short film for the inaugural Film Prize Junior New Mexico festival. And since I’m on the Student Advisory Committee, I got to see some of the completed films early.

The new film fest is organized by the founders of Film Prize Louisiana, the largest cash prize for a short film in the world. The founders expanded the festival for middle school and high school youth, calling it Film Prize Junior Louisiana. From there, Film Prize Junior New Mexico was born.

The event is backed by the Film Prize Foundation in Louisiana, in partnership with the nonprofit Stagecoach Foundation in Santa Fe. It’s led by Film Prize Junior New Mexico director Rosey Hayett.

Participating student filmmakers spent the school year attending virtual classes covering anything from the basics of script writing to the ins and outs of promoting a finished film.

All student films will screen Saturday, April 23, at the Dreamcatcher Theater in Española. If you have the time to stop by (or stream online at filmprizenm.com) here are some you should not miss:

‘I Really Like You Too’

Directed by Siena Tan, The MASTERS Program.

In this delightful short, introverted Erin’s best friends, Amelia and Cory, give her “how-to-get-the-boy advice.” Imagine high school drama meets rom-com.

It’s super well-shot and has great comedic timing. This will be your next comfort film.

‘Camp Sunshine’

Directed by Kyla Stow, Roots & Wings Community School.

When The Blair Witch Project (1999) came out, it popularized the “found-footage” subgenre of horror movies. It also became the most successful independent movie ever, and left a mark potent enough to ensure every found-footage movie from that point forward should either not make an attempt or be really, really good. Camp Sunshine is really, really good. It also takes place in the ‘80s and excels in that vibe, too.

It’s also quite spooky. Like edge-of-your-seat spooky. Although as someone approximately the age of the characters, the portrayal of the camp counselors made me laugh several times.

‘Banana Cop’

Directed by Antonio Garcia de Gallegos, Nex+Gen Academy.

This film is an absolute riot. If you’re coming into a festival of student films expecting not to see anything you’ll like, there are no words I can type that could bring you from your current position to the sheer awesomeness of this 4-minute comedy.

It stars the director as the titular, double-sunglasses wearing Banana Cop, as he attempts to take down a villainous lemon. It may seem like high schoolers running around dressed up like fruit, but it’s also got quick and witty banter with deliberate and comedic acting. The enthusiasm of the filmmakers oozes from the film and adds to the investment the viewer is already feeling from loving the concept. However, Banana Cop knows it’s a student film, but its self-awareness brings the hilarity over the top.

‘12,481’ ’

Directed by Emmasofia Hayett, Taos Integrated School of the Arts.

This film is probably the least student-film-looking short in the whole festival.

It pulls out all the stops that not every filmmaker could achieve — professional skiers, huge cast and even a private plane.

The film follows Charly Dawns, a young pro skier who enters what could turn into the race of a lifetime, haunted by the memories of a severe, past accident. We watch as her community, teammates and friends cheer her on, in a story that is both heartwarming and adrenaline-inducing.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly wrote Film Prize Louisiana is the largest cash film prize in the world. It's the largest cash prize for a short film. The festival is also made possible in partnership with Stagecoach Foundation — not with funding from the organization.

Emma Meyers is a junior at Santa Fe Prep. Contact her at emmawritingacc@gmail.com.

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