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Murder at the Pharaoh's Grave

April 21, 2009: Three days before its Seattle premičre, 'Murder at the Pharaoh's Grave' got a great review from Warren Etheredge in Seattle's Child magazine. Mr. Etheredge calls the film one of the highlights of NFFTY and says "Kadie wisely uses these effects along with archival footage and an original score to transform this simple tale into legitimate crowd-pleasing entertainment."

Published: Tuesday, April 21, 2009

NFFTY 2009: A Sneak Peek at Flicks by Young Filmmakers

By Warren Etheredge

It’s time for the Seattle-based National Film Festival for Talented Youth – one of only a handful of youth film festivals across the country. Now in its third year, NFFTY (pronounced “nifty”) bills itself as “the largest and most influential film festival and support organization for filmmakers age 22 and under.”

During this year’s festival, 112 films chosen from more than 400 submitted by young filmmakers across the country will be screened from April 24 to 26.

Here are some sneak peeks:

By Ben Kadie, 13

What does it take to be the next Steven Spielberg? Ambition and an early start.

The Oscar-winning filmmaker who changed Hollywood’s economics and America’s swimming habits with JAWS, began his career as a kid, scripting movies, casting them and even charging admission for family and friends to see them. Spielberg shot his cinematic adventures on 8mm film. Ben Kadie shoots and edits video. Might the 13-year-old be the next great director? Could be.

Kadie’s short film, Murder at the Pharoh’s Grave, is one of the highlights at NFFTY this year. In just over 12 minutes, Kadie crafts an old-school yarn (with a modern feminist twist!) befitting any 1930s double feature.

When a revered archaeologist turns up dead at the site of his greatest find, an Army captain recruits the lovely – and level-headed – Egyptologist, Ellis Clarke, to crack the case. But not everyone’s motives are as clear as the hieroglyphic writing on the wall. Soon there are more victims, fewer answers and many funny, fake mustaches … most of which stay on.

Yes, the costumes barely fit the cast, and the dialogue does not neatly fill their mouths, but the sincerity of the youthful actors’ efforts put the majority of major studio movies to shame. Murder at the Pharoh’s Grave revives the epic spirit of David Lean, retraces the cat-and-mouse shenanigans of Agatha Christie and re-imagines genre, harnessing the (limited) technical wherewithal of Zack (300) Snyder.

Computer software now allows amateurs of any age to adopt beautiful backdrops and simulate action sequences that would have had the young Spielberg pulling his hair out – or eating his heart out – and Kadie wisely uses these effects along with archival footage and an original score (by David Hovel) to transform this simple tale into legitimate crowd-pleasing entertainment.

Can it be long ‘til Kadie, like Spielberg before him, makes the leap from backyard production to summer blockbuster? Wait … and see Murder at the Pharoh’s Grave so you’ll know how it all began.

SEE IT Friday, April 24, 7:30 p.m. at the Cinerama as part of the Opening Night presented by Volvo Cars of North America.

• • •

LEFT SIDE (7 minutes)
By Esther Magasis, 16; Ryan Zemke, 16; Andy Tran, 17

When Brian Bartlett was hit by a car, he lost a leg, but not his love of extreme sports. Working with a determined prosthetist, Bartlett helps design a new, ground-breaking artificial appendage that not only serves to steady him, but also improves his mountain-biking.

SEE IT Sunday, April 26, 10 a.m. at the SIFF Cinema as part of the “Northwest Scene” package.

• • •

SURFING 50 STATES (62 minutes)
By Stefan Hunt, 21

You can do anything you put your mind to, right? (You just may not be in your right mind.) And, if you’re two sweet-spirited Aussie mates, you can even go surfing across the USA, landlocked states included! Watch Jonno and Stefan mount their boards to skim minor waterways, a Kansas stage play and a mountain of spuds in Idaho.

SEE IT Sunday, April 26 at 3 p.m. at the JBL Theater at EMP as part of “The Great Outdoors” package.

• • •

THE ZONUS PROJECT (61 minutes)
By Torrance Carroll, 19

This stop-motion animation immerses its Lego society into a silly, satiric spin on politics with hints of Orwell, Pink Floyd and Christopher Hitchens.

SEE IT Saturday, April 25 at 11:30 a.m. at the SIFF Cinema as part of the “Animation!” package.

Warren Etheredge is owner of, dedicated to helping people (kids included) experience film as a forum for understanding the issues and challenges of our times. He’s a Seattle-based father of one.


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