Magazine article Filmmaker

Annie Silverstein

Magazine article Filmmaker

Annie Silverstein

Article excerpt

A stolen pit bull, a 14-year-old girl, and an aggressive sexual exchange set the stage for a slyly animalistic act of revenge in Annie Silverstein's suspenseful and unexpectedly empowering Skunk, her short film that took the top prize this year at Cannes' Cinéfondation. But while the picture may have been the writer-director's thesis film at University of Texas, it is actually the product of her decade's work with just the kind of at-risk youth depicted so honestly on screen.

Long before youth media became a field of its own, Silverstein explains, she was using the practice of moviemaking "to help kids tell stories about issues in their lives." After working for a nonprofit in Minneapolis, she moved to Seattle and launched a program, Native Lens, at Longhouse Media. Working with the Native American youth there "was a formative experience," she says. "We mainly made documentaries, telling stories of [the kids'] lives, building cultural pride, exploring health issues, poverty, violence, problems with police. My role would change depending on the piece. Often times I was the facilitator, helping take different ideas and turn them into stories the kids could tell. Sometimes we'd fictionalize things in their lives they weren't comfortable talking about. I'd give them a topic, like drinking. I'd say, 'You can play whoever you want, but there has to be conflict and relationships at stake.'"

Still, it was years before Silverstein decided to become a director. …

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