Fest screens for teens with Under 18 guide

Hollywood’s infatuation with the moviegoing tastes of teens is no secret, but at film festivals — where the selections might include (gasp) subtitles — attracting youths requires thoughtful outreach.

This year, the AFI Fest will distribute its first Under 18 Guide. Available through citywide drop-offs to Los Angeles Unified School District students, the guide spotlights 10 films that might bring parents and kids together to the festival (though young viewers need not be accompanied). It’s also viewable on the fest’s Web site.

“This is not a special festival of teen films,” says festival director Christian Gaines, referring to the current vogue for separate showcases aimed at young moviegoers. “This is about making parents who have kids interested in films feel good about seeing them together. There are a lot of films we think are great for smart teenagers but aren’t necessarily films meant for teenagers.”

Because many fest selections are unrated, intense elements — violence, sex, language — are explained in the guide, which is produced in concert with the Screen Education department of the AFI Film conservatory and the Skirball Cultural Center, with funding from the L.A. County Arts Commission.

The fest’s interest in cultivating a young audience doesn’t stop when the credits roll, either. The guide will include talking points about issues or themes raised in a film, and the fest will bring back its review-writing competition for high schoolers.

Says Gaines, “I think kids are not given enough opportunities in American education to approach media critically, and I think this is an important opportunity.”

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