Scriber HS students make their mark as the next generation of film critics

Members of the AV Club meet for a final time in preparation for this week’s 2023 Seattle International Film Festival. L-R: Jasper Rhodes, faculty advisor Arianne Garden-Vasquez; Joe Alder; Malakiah Rodriguez, Lazarus Claus, Chauntelle Hubner and Kelbi Maldonado. (Photo by Larry Vogel)

It all began last year when the Scriber Lake High School student AV club got the opportunity to join members of the press to both view and compose critical reviews of films shown as part of the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF). Since then, the journey took them to this year’s Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, and next week they will build on their experience by once attending SIFF, this time as full-fledged film reviewers.

“I believe we are seeing the next generation of new film critics,” said Arianne Garden-Vasquez, who teaches in Scriber’s Career and Technical Education program and serves as faculty advisor to the student AV Club.

Faculty advisor Arianne Garden-Vasquez goes over last-minute details on this year’s SIFF logistics. (Photo by Larry Vogel)

Passionate about all phases of film production and visual media, Vasquez served for 10 years as education coordinator for SIFF before coming to Scriber, and through her connections was able to open the door to the world of film critics for her students.

“I still have contacts in SIFF and was able to work with them to actually get press passes for my students for the 2022 film festival,” she explained. “This allowed them to attend SIFF screenings as press where they met and talked with professional critics and various producers, directors and actors.”

They were the youngest critics there, but by all accounts the synergy was magic. All who encountered them were impressed by the students’ professionalism, and they were immediately invited back to attend the 2023 SIFF.

“The students came back from last year’s SIFF totally stoked by the experience,” Vasquez added. “They kept asking how they could build on what they started at SIFF, and that’s when the idea of Sundance came up. At first it seemed like a pretty wild idea – travel to Utah in the middle of winter to attend and critique films at Sundance — but the more we talked about it, the more it started to take shape.”

The five Scriber student critics at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. (Photo courtesy Scriber AV Club)
Hal Powers and Kelbi Maldonado video Mike Hart giving a review of one of this year’s Sundance films. (Photo courtesy Scriber AV Club)

The AV Club students worked up a proposal and designated club member Nicolai Shymko to present it to the Edmonds School District Board of Directors. The board was receptive and late last year officially approved sending five AV Club students to the opening two days of the 2023 Sundance Film Festival.

While at Sundance, the students not only viewed and composed critiques of the various films, but once again had the chance to meet and interact with directors, producers, actors, critics and others. (Watch video of the students’ chance encounter and interview with Izo Miozrahy, director of The Longest Goodbye, on the Scriber Film Critics Corner webpage here).

Club member Kelbi Maldonado tells how her chance encounter in a Sundance theater bathroom with the producer led to an interview with the director of The Longest Goodbye, one of the films the group reviewed. (Photo by Larry Vogel)

It’s no accident that this happened at Edmonds-based Scriber Lake High School, where many trappings of traditional education take a back seat to individualized learning keyed to students’ personal talents and strengths. It’s a place where innovative education happens, and for many students and faculty provides a refreshing alternative to mainstream schools – a place where the educational process has the space to break out of traditional boundaries and grow and thrive in new ways that provide a firm foundation for students’ future success in our rapidly evolving world.

Members of the AV Club meet for a final time in preparation for this week’s 2023 Seattle International Film Festival. L-R: Jasper Rhodes, faculty advisor Arianne Garden-Vasquez; Joe Alder; Malakiah Rodriguez, Lazarus Claus, Chauntelle Hubner, Kelbi Maldonado. (Photo by Larry Vogel)

“At Scriber Lake High School, we strive to bring coursework to life by connecting it to students’ experiences and the real world – discussions, field experiences, and minicourses offer students the opportunity to consider new perspectives while developing their own world view,” explained Vasquez.  “Our objective in attending Sundance was for students to access film industry career options and develop their unique artistic voice using film criticism. Scriber is a place where the individual is valued. It provides a safe and creative place where students can learn and be themselves.”

And this week, they’ll be doing it all again at the 2023 SIFF. Press passes have been secured, transportation arranged, schedules double-checked, and all is a go for the Scriber student critics to join the professional film press once again to view and review this year’s SIFF offerings.

Learn more about Scriber High School at the main website here. Student film reviews and critiques from this year’s SIFF will be published on the Scriber Lake Critics Corner page.

— By Larry Vogel

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