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The Underrated 90-Second Newbery Film Festival

Romeo Rosales

Staff Writer

Full time Librarian, father and husband, Romeo Rosales, Jr. holds an MLS from Texas Woman's University in Denton, TX, a B.A. in History from The University of Texas - Rio Grande Valley in Edinburg, TX, and an A.A. in History from South Texas College in McAllen, TX. Romeo was born and raised in Pharr, TX, a border town that is part of the historic Rio Grande Valley. He is a contributor for Public Libraries Online, the companion website to the bi-monthly print publication "Public Libraries," the official magazine of the Public Library Association. He is also a published author and when he is not writing, he is spending all of his time with his wife Claudia and his son Azariah. Twitter: @Rrsls10

It was not until just a few months ago that I heard about the “90-Second Newbery Film Festival.” Having worked in public libraries for just shy of a decade, it would be safe to assume that this is something I  should know all about. But that just isn’t the case.

What is this film festival, you ask? The 90-Second Newbery Film Festival is an annual video contest in which young filmmakers create movies that tell the entire stories of Newbery-winning books in about 90 seconds. And these videos won’t leave you catching Z’s. Some of the festival’s contestants are so creative that watching their videos makes you feel genuinely proud about our future. Or like famed biochemist Louis Pasteur once said, “When I approach a child, he/she inspires in me two sentiments: Tenderness for what he/she is and respect for what he/she may become.”

Here are a couple of great videos to give you an example of what these stories look like:

As you can see, the creativity of the video’s creators truly came out in these videos. The festival founder, James Kennedy, encourages all those who submit their videos to be as creative as possible. He encourages creators to experiment with camera angles, use claymation and stop motion, and create anything original that amounts to more than just individuals reading from a book. Some quick rules about the contest:

1. Your video should be about 90 seconds. (Okay, okay: if it’s three minutes but absolute genius, we’ll bend the rules for you. But let’s try to keep them short.)

2. Your video has to be about a Newbery award-winning (or Newbery honor-winning) book. Here’s a list of all the winners.

3. No book trailers! No video book reports! We’re looking for full-on dramatizations, with mostly child actors, that manage to tell the entire story of the book in 90 seconds. (Just to be clear: your movie shouldn’t conclude with a narrator saying stuff like, “And if you want to know more, just read the book.” Give us the whole storyabbreviated.) 

There are a few more rules about the contest that you can find here. Every year, videos of the best movies the festival receives are shown at special-event screenings in New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Portland, San Antonio, Boston, Tacoma, and other cities. This is an excellent opportunity for all those who submitted videos to see their hard work showcased in front of a very large crowd. And videos are forever archived on YouTube and Vimeo for others across the country to see.

James Kennedy views and judges every video that is submitted. This is quite an impressive feat! The deadline for the eighth annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival is January 11, 2019.

What are you waiting for? Get to working on those videos today. Enjoy!