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Tuesday, August 27, 2019

2nd Annual Just Be You Performing Arts Youth Film Festival August 29-30



A diverse collection of short films made by children will be showcased during the 2nd Annual Just Be You Performing Arts Youth Film Festival on Thursday, August 29, 2019, at the Rahway Public Library, 2 City Hall Plaza, Rahway, New Jersey. From 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the library’s auditorium room. Children all over the world submitted films to this youth driven film festival. The festival is free for kids and teens.
“We’ve hosted free workshops for kids in Rahway for over 5 years. The organization was born in Rahway in 2013. Bringing our youth film festival there is us continuing our legacy of pouring into the community,” said Mahogany Reynolds, the founder and executive director of Just Be You Performing Arts.
The festival has a specific focus on the youth. Children from the New Jersey metro area will perform at the event, such as Pedro “PJ” Pegan, of Rahway, New Jersey. A 10-year-old musical prodigy and professional drummer, who has performed twice with legendary drummer/musician, Sheila E.
The festival also features children who will co-hosts the event. Reynolds selected and trained them for several weeks to help prepare them for the festival.
“This is amazing! Thank you for making kids’ dreams come true. I’m so glad to be one of those kids! I’m so happy to be a part of the Just Be You Film Festival,” said CJ Thompson, 12-year’s-old of Brooklyn, New York.
Emelia Alfiero, a 14-year-old actor, dancer and singer, from Pipersville, Pennsylvania, is also a co-host for the festival. She applied for the role when she saw the casting notice on Backstage.com.
The Just Be You Film Festival will be a new experience for me. I love learning and being part of new things. I think kids will learn about new and different career paths they might not have been aware of before. I feel this festival is important because it thoroughly involves kids and is for kids. This festival gives kids a chance to have a voice in the local entertainment world,” said Alfiero.
“What makes this festival unique is that its sole and main focus is the youth. To see a festival in which the youth have the opportunity to display their talents and abilities is remarkable. What inspired me to return as the host again this year; was the children, and the founder of the festival. I want children to know that they are a major contribution to the entertainment industry, and that their work, and voices matter. Mahogany has such a genuine heart, and her impact on children; and her love for what she does makes this festival stand out,” said Crystal NuChurch, accomplished actress of Jersey City, New Jersey, who hosted the inaugural festival in 2018.
Special Addition Films in ASL
A special feature being added to this season of the Just Be You Festival is showcasing films that include American Sign Language (ASL). Reynolds deemed it vital to make the festival all-inclusive and saw a need for children with hearing disabilities to be able to enjoy a film festival. The new children’s comedy series “CHI-nanigans” will be the festival’s special featured film. Jil Ross, of Chicago, Illinois, creator of the series, will be in attendance for a rare Q&A session. Based upon  a diverse cast of kids and their adventures in their Chicago neighborhood, Ross produced several episodes of the “CHI-nanigans” series with ASL, to reach a wider audience of children.
Reynolds decided to make “CHI-nanigans” a special feature at the festival because Ross’ shared vision of all-inclusiveness. Ross is an American author, playwright, storyteller, screenwriter, and producer who is best known for The Shenanigans Series™ of children’s books which she began publishing in 2003. While growing up, she was often in the company of family, neighbors, and friends who lived with conditions such as stuttering, deafness, albinism, dwarfism, vitiligo, and alopecia, Ross explained. Her goal has been to create comedy; in a humorous yet respectful way, that showcases inclusion in a way that’s not currently being explored. The stories she writes are inspired by her real-life events.
I’m honored to be a finalist in the Just Be You Performing Arts Youth Film Festival. My intention was simply to change the trajectory of film, televised content, and the overall viewing experience. So being recognized for this effort is truly the cherry on top. It’s not what I was seeking. My ASL episodes currently have more views than the non ASL, which confirms to me that there is a need for this kind of inclusion. I think in today’s tense social climate, it’s important that we reach across the line to include people with different abilities, whatever those abilities are,” said Ross.
Highlight on New Jersey Youth Filmmakers
The Just Be You Festival will screen a diverse array of short-films in the categories of: animation, documentary, short feature, dance video, music video, and live action. The submission process was world wide and youth filmmakers from all over the globe submitted their films. A special emphasis was placed on New Jersey youth filmmakers and the festival will include films made by several students at New Jersey schools. One such school is Middletown High School North, in Middletown, New Jersey.
Film and Television teacher, Christopher Cullen, submitted films on behalf of his students. Three of those films were selected as finalist in the festival. “Pieces of Mosaic” a dance film by Yazemin Yilmaz, “The Letter” a short feature by Joanna Downing, Alyssa McCall and Joanna Downing, and “Beyond Dreams” a documentary also by Yilmaz. In 2018, one of Cullen’s former students, Alex Lehotsky, received the festival’s Best New Jersey Filmmaker Youth Division Award. They are now up for three awards this year.
“I am very excited for my students having three films in this year's festival.  Last year I went to the festival and saw so much talent and had a wonderful time. One of my students won an award for her short film last season and now she is attending Montclair Film School.  I can not wait to come to this year's screenings and represent my students and Middletown North High School.  I will be going into my third year as the TV/Film teacher and I hope we can continue our success,” said Cullen.

Admission to the festival can be reserved at www.justbeyoufestival.com. Children attend free with an accompanied adult. The festival starts at 12 noon and ends at 6 p.m. A complete outline of the festival’s scheduled activities can be found on their website.

The festival concludes with an awards ceremony that features dance and vocal performances. The event’s VIP Guest Youth Speaker is, Skyy Luke, of Jersey City, New Jersey. Luke is a 10-year-old award-winning actress and professional public speaker. She is booked to deliver uplifting motivational speeches to children all throughout the New Jersey metro area. She also has her own summer camp for kids called Skyy Camp.

Reynolds is actively seeking sponsors to participate in the festival. Sponsors receive a complimentary display table to showcase their products or services during the festival. To learn more about the how to become a sponsor contact them at: justbeyoustudios@gmail.comThis is an independent event by Just Be You Performing Arts.

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