The intersection of youth and documentary at Young Horizons Industry

YOUTH / Explore Young Horizons Industry's 2023 film selections, highlighting the complexities and nuances of youthful experiences.

As Young Horizons Industry readies itself for its 7th annual gathering from 4 to 6 October 2023, both in Warsaw and online, it’s clear that the landscape of youth-centric narratives in documentary film is ever-evolving. Building from its predecessor, Kids Kino Industry, Young Horizons Industry signifies a more significant commitment to the largely underserved youth demographic through a threefold focus of documentary, animation, and live action. With over 300 stakeholders from diverse film industry sectors, Young Horizons Industry operates as a vital nexus for developing and disseminating youth-focused narratives.

Patterns of Being Małgorzata Wabinska
Patterns of Being, a film by Małgorzata Wabinska

This year’s selections encompass a variety of documentary films and series exploring multifaceted youthful experiences. Armed with Drums (Norway, 75’/52′) offers a lens into a Brazilian youngster’s life as he uses drumming to cope with familial loss. «It’s about using music to express difficult feelings, a topic close to my heart from when I grew up,» reflects its filmmaker Øyvind Aamli. Meanwhile, Aleksandra Bielska’s Being a pART (Poland, 15′) probes the emotional landscape of a young art lover named Jędrzej, set against the backdrop of social acceptance. Olga Papacz’s A Layup (Poland, 20) ventures into the collective realm, focusing on adolescent girls in Poland’s basketball selection camps.

Added to this intricate tapestry are films like Laura Sonik’s Julian (Poland, 75′), which centres on a young trans man negotiating familial acceptance in Warsaw, and Ellen Morgenstierne’s My Imaginary Friend (Norway, 30′), a contemplative exercise into the mechanics of imagination. Małgorzata Wabinska’s Patterns of Being (Poland, 82’/52′) offers a more intellectual approach, combining narrative storytelling with scientific discourse on the potential for self-transformation.

On the inherent interest in developing youth-focused narratives, Malgorzata Wabinska tells Modern Times Review, «What fascinates me about adolescence is the potential for change. Making a film for teenagers, I’m actually making it for myself, but from those years.» Similarly, Olga Papacz remarked, «Being a teenager is about being in between, and that is a cause of many troubles and confusions.»

With over 300 stakeholders from diverse film industry sectors, Young Horizons Industry operates as a vital nexus for developing and disseminating youth-focused narratives.

Young Horizons Industry’s emphasis on youth documentaries derives from the dual purpose such films serve: as instructive tools and as reflective mirrors capturing the complexities of young lives. «For me, adolescence and early adulthood were very weird and hard times, during which I received much support from my girlfriends. I observed similar acts of support between my characters, and I found it very precious and worth showing,» notes Papacz, adding that such films can serve as supportive anchors for teenagers navigating these tumultuous years.

We Keep Them in Our Hearts Cecilie Bjørnaraa
We Keep Them in Our Hearts, a documentary series by Julie Engaas and Cecilie Bjørnaraa

Moreover, the event serves as a platform where filmmakers like Maida Eirheim can find «focus on content for the young audience, as this easily disappears in the shadows of a broader audience in many arenas.» Eirheim, whose upcoming documentary series Elliot (Norway) was filmed in rural Kenya, emphasizes the need for content that challenges and encourages curiosity among younger viewers. The documentary series format is also utilized in Maria Stanisheva’s Finding a Home, a collection of climate refugee stories from around the world, and Julie Engaas and Cecile Bjørnaraa’s We Keep Them in Our Hearts, on children of different ages who have lost a close family member.

Experienced figures from the industry are contributing to the ecosystem. These seasoned professionals offer mentorship and guidance, further amplifying the quality and reach of these documentaries. «Young Horizons Industry is a quality stamp, not only in terms of the projects but also in terms of artistic support,» says Wabinska, stressing the quality assurance and support that comes with being part of programs like Young Horizons Industry. It is a sentiment echoed by Øyvind Aamli, stating, «Its [Young Horizons Industry] focus on films for young people will bring the right industry people into the room.

Young Horizons Industry not only advances its focus by transitioning from its earlier incarnation as Kids Kino Industry but also establishes itself as an influential institution in youth documentaries. By providing a sophisticated platform for these films, it enhances its impact on an underrepresented audience—the youth—demonstrating the genre’s indispensability as both a cultural artefact and a formative instrument in the lives of its young viewers. Through insights from the filmmakers themselves, Young Horizons Industry opens up new vistas into the complexity of youthful experiences, enriching our collective understanding of them.

The essay is written by:
Steve Rickinson
Steve Rickinson
Steve lives in Bucharest, Romania. He writes for some platforms and does some other things as well.

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