NEW CANAAN — Rachel Driver was thinking of more than just creating an interesting documentary when making her film for the New Canaan High School New Age Film Festival.

The 16-year-old New Canaan High School sophomore created a documentary about her grandfather, not only to submit to the contest, but to help preserve her family history.

Driver’s grandfather came to Canada from Italy as a teenager, worked his way up in a candy factory and created affordable housing for immigrants. To tell his story, Driver collected photos and newspaper clippings to use as b-roll and then spent a week interviewing her grandfather. The majority of her work was cutting his story down to five minutes.

“I’m old enough where I’m understanding his life story,” she said. “I thought it’d be a great idea to have something to immortalize him. It’s a very important story. He impacted a lot of people, and I thought people should know.”

Driver’s documentary, along with a claymation about a snail she helped co-create, were among 84 entries in the student-run New Canaan High School New Age Film Festival on May 25 at the high school. Run by the NCHS Film Club, students from 12 schools across Fairfield County participated in the festival, submitting films to be judged under the categories of narrative, animation, music video, documentary or open entry. Three jurors judged the students and awarded 23 prizes in varying categories. Many of the students in the contest are in film club or film classes.

Jennifer Sinski, New Canaan High School art teacher and adviser to the film club, said she felt this year’s films for the club’s third festival were high quality and reflected the current state of the world.

“We live in a crazy world right now,” she said. “I can see the deepness in the messages. These aren’t high school dramas, these are high production films.”

More Information

Watch the films

To view all of the films entered, visit newagefilmfestival.tumblr.com

Winners:

Outstanding Screenplay: “Inexpressible” by Bushra Farook, Brien McMahon High School

Outstanding Cinematography in a Narrative: “Lucas Kay Part II” by Nicholas LaMorte, New Canaan High School

Outstanding Narrative Performance “House in the Woods by​ ​Roxanne Kassapidis, Convent of the Sacred Heart

Outstanding Editing in a Narrative: “Good Night, Good Friend” by Danie Emond, Gwynne Tenney, Bridget Haley, New Canaan High School

"Outstanding Lyrical Editing in a Music Video: “My Math Machine” by Jake Grigsby, Trevor De Genghi, Alex Lambrinos, Chris Harte, New Canaan High School

Outstanding Music Video “The Hunt” by Taylor Renney, Ridgefield High School

Outstanding Post-Production in a Documentary “50” by Cortland Parrott, New Canaan High School

Outstanding Interview: “Resilient: A Frank Raso Story” by Rachel Driver, New Canaan High School

Outstanding Documentary: “The Godmother of Comedy” by Lorraine Rinaldi, Convent of the Sacred Heart

Outstanding Message in a Public Service Announcement: “I Am 16” by Taylor Ranney, Ridgefield High School NCHS

Outstanding Creativity in a Public Service Announcement: “Child Abuse PSA” by Alison Lindsey Noble, Amelia Fitch, Miranda Wright, Staples High School

Outstanding Special Effects in an Animation: “Knocks” by Stephanie Zachariadis, Westhill High School

Outstanding Animated Characters: “Legend of the Ancient Relic” by Kasey Tam, Greenwich High School

Outstanding Animated Story: “Saving Me” by Emma Keating, Wilton High School

Outstanding Post - Production in an Open Entry: “Passion” by Patrick Wajler, Stamford High School

Outstanding Open Entry: “How We Listen” by Giles Ruck & Christopher Thompson, Norwalk High

Viewer’s Choice Award - Narrative: “He Loves Me Not” by Grace Deloe & Amy Ozols, Brien McMahon High School

Viewer’s Choice Award - Music Video: The Hunt by Taylor Ranney, Ridgefield High School

Viewer’s Choice Award - Documentary: “David Yarrow: WILD” by Jillian Larkin, Ava Bloom, Sloane Kratzman, Convent of the Sacred Heart

Viewer’s Choice Award - PSA: “Diversity Shines at SHS” by Marissa Young, Stamford High School

Viewer’s Choice Award - Animation: “Legend of the Ancient Relic” By Kasey Tam, Greenwich High School

Viewer’s Choice Award - Open Entry": “Hamlet” by Jake Grigsby, New Canaan High School

Film Club Leadership Award: Nicholas LaMorte, Isaac Marshall, Gabriela Limone

This year’s films touched upon topics like identity, awareness, women’s equality, diversity, violence and bullying. The storytelling was used in creative ways. Gwynne Tenney, 16, directed and wrote a film about a girl breaking up with her boyfriend. The twist is the dialogue is a poem, written by the New Canaan High School sophomore. The story is told through the poem, as well as back-and-forth scenes and vignettes of the two lovers.

“It’s less of a dialogue and more a letter she was writing him,” Tenney said. “I was crunched for time when writing the poem. I had an idea in mind of the feel and rhythm and in one sitting, I wrote it out.”

It’s this unique storytelling one of the jurors, Mike Magilnick, was looking for. Magilnick is a Newtown-based filmmaker and said he watched each film several times to really gain a sense of it.

“I was looking to see how concise the storytelling was and what the content was,” he said.

ekayata@hearstmediact.com; @erin_kayata