San Francisco Art & Film for Teens


Free cultural programs for teens, including Friday night film screenings, Saturdays art walks and free seats to cultural events. Open to all Bay Area students, middle school through college. Established 1993. 

Filtering by Tag: una lomax-emrick

2019 Tarkovsky Prize Honorable Mention: Una Lomax-Emrick

Una Lomax-Emrick (18, Urban School)
The Racket of Consciousness: Three Colors: Red

            I recently listened to psychologist Kaern Kreyling describe the ways in which our minds are obsessed with maintaining constant inner dialogues in spite of the fact that silence dominates many layers of our subconscious. The brain and consciousness are vastly silent, she said, but we are often hypnotized by the small flood of doubts, mundane insecurities, philosophical musings, and “Did I remember to turn the stove off?” that crowd the top layer of our thoughts. Amidst our constant media inundations through the devices in our hands, we tend to forget the silence but are still desperately seeking it. We buy into the mythology of a spin class somehow destined to cure anxiety, laud prohibitively expensive “mindfulness retreats” when we could just as well follow a map to a stranger’s home or celebrate an oncoming storm. Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Three Colors: Red presents a stunning portrait of the power of silent human connection in spite of a superficial draw to noise. As Janet Maslin states in her 1994 New York Times review of the film, “Stories develop like photographs in a darkroom. They are sharply defined only in retrospect, when the process is complete.” Kieślowski examines love and coincidence with astounding poise, rendering the observer delightfully complicit in forming the relationships that arise and the hopes that spring in the face of a missed call, a wounded dog, and lost romantic connections. His characters are constantly seeking peace but are unable, until the film’s end, to find the silence that can truly bring them to rest and back to one another. His film is a tremendous testament to the power of connection and the ability of some beautiful, internal grace to guide people to the silence, if they will only pay attention.


            The telephone, a central focus of countless scenes in Red is the only real antagonist in the film. It acts as a block between people, a shade attempting to disrupt truth love, and much beauty throughout. Voices become weapons. Valentine’s (Irène Jacob) boyfriend summons her to the perilous waters of the English Channel, and Auguste (Jean-Pierre Lorit) makes plans and loses the woman he loves through the off-white chord of his landline. Their relationships are superficial; Kieślowski implies again and again that in order to love and to understand, one must be physically with someone and, of course, one must be silent. The Judge (Jean-Louis Trintignant) lives a solitary life in a tumble-down house; he is obsessed with the noise of others. Sitting alone in the dark, we watch his mind play out in the rising and falling of voices on his stereo screen. This man is deeply unhappy, not content with the musings of his own desperate mind, he must prey on the voices and feelings others to be satiated, and Valentine is similarly disgusted and enamored of his noise. The night outside is dark and silent. Rita, the sweet dog, is not moaning anymore, she is with the people who care for her and there is safety to be had in the assurance that they will love her. Yet, The Judge and Valentine are isolated. Their friendship springs from this night and the subsequent thawing of their initial icy self-righteousness. Much later on, when they share a drink in the stormy hall of Valentine’s show, there is psychological silence. A beautiful howling of the wind is the only sound amidst their hushed declarations of truth. Their friendship has allowed Kern to find solace in his own mind. He writes letters to his neighbors just as Auguste books passage on the ship to England; they are present, direct, and soulful. This is how the two men finally begin to emerge from the tumultuous cacophony of their heartbreak and into a silent comfort.


Valentine, in many ways, embodies the kind of delicate self-possession that helps lead everyone back to silence, yet at the beginning of the film, we find her running her to the telephone, to a lover obsessed with the sound of her voice. She is trapped in the scene so brilliantly depicted in the opening credits, in telephones wires echoing across seas, in between walls, and underground. The telephone-world is a dismal place; we know that Valentine’s lover is all wrong, overbearing, jealous, but she sees him and her relationship with the distortion only her black telephone, perched perilously atop red table, can provide. Yet, though she is deceived by loud declarations of “care,” she is ultimately saved by her ability to sit comfortably with her own mind, and indeed, to quiet it down. In a truly spectacular scene, we see her entering the home of a man the Judge has been spying on with the intent to tell him that the Judge knows of his affair. Upon stepping beyond the threshold, she is met by his family and the loudness in her mind pauses, she reevaluates and leaves, understanding and finding peace with the simultaneous serenity and dangers of secrets. Valentine’s beauty doesn’t come from loud poetic declarations; instead, it appears in her ability to effortlessly blow a bubble without question and without laughter. She is not childish or pretentious, merely a woman who knows herself dancing and sweating in a crowded studio, or quietly consulting with a veterinarian in a dimly lit after hours clinic. She epitomizes growth in her melancholy; she ventures out onto the sea and finds quiet in the arms of another. She is human and deeply connected to her home: the little flat across the street from the place she buys a paper and the drive she learns to take in silence.


Silence is Kieślowski’s surprising and absolutely necessary choice for a film entitled Red. There is no screaming in this film. The Judge is no crazed professor, merely a lonely man with a void in his heart and the voice of others dominating his mind. Auguste is loud only in action; boldness and racket only echoing in his agile clambering up a balcony and subsequent confrontation. The telephone does not ring like in some 1950s nightmare film, sounds buzz and tinkle, but never yell. Red is every part of this film, and Kieślowski’s brilliance is in allying such a crimson with a kind of gentleness hardly captured on screen. He explores the lower part of the mind, the kind hypnotized by simple beauty instead of by fear. Soft words exchanged in lamplight and the curve of a narrow drive are the backbone of his picture. Three Colors: Red is a testament to relationships, to subtlety, and to silence.

2018 Tarkovsky Award Honorable Mention: Una Lomax-Emrick

Una Lomax-Emrick (17, Urban High School)
Fall Apart, Make a Mess: What Frances Ha Teaches Us About Creativity

The New York Times describes Frances from Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach’s film Frances Ha as both a “plausible and ridiculous” dancer. She is not particularly graceful and initially lacks the drive to complete her projects, but her commitment to the art of discovery and creation renders her an artist. (Aren’t most art endeavors and most artists considered “plausible and ridiculous” in U.S. culture?) Frances’ artistic pursuits, however disputed, give the observer insight into her off-kilter reality where she leaps through crosswalks and play-fights in the park all the while struggling to create and evolve. Frances Ha describes the cyclical process of an artist’s self-definition and discovery through “messiness,” and the film asserts its absolute necessity in the creative process.


The first part of film introduces viewers to Frances as a charming, awkward, and off-kilter twenty something who aspires to be a modern dancer, but is rarely seen practicing her art form. As the story opens, Frances momentarily tap dances and play fights with her best friend Sophie and later falls asleep in her lap as they ride home on the subway. Frances’ reality is by no means orderly, but it is, instead, the romanticized version of an artist’s life in New York. “Tell me the story of us,” Frances commands from her black and white bedroom. She breaks up with her boyfriend and immediately heads to China Town, head abuzz with new men and new sights. She has no plans other than the promise of Sophie and their crafted story: Frances will become a groundbreaking modern dancer and Sophie, an important publisher. These scenes, awash in the glow of New York City creativity exhibit everything except art in practice; Frances dances in a handful of scenes, but lacks the fervor and drive her art demands.

Frances Ha’s position as a young artist makes her lack of organization and therefore career opportunities more uneven because she is not expected or permitted to be messy by the larger world she lives in. Through side shots and indirect angles, Frances is turned away by Sophie who has moved into the glamorous Tribeca area, and later, is not asked to join the dance company she works for. Frances insists her room is dirty because she is busy but spends her days on the couch while her glamorous friends fly to Tokyo or pretend to write for Saturday Night Live while living off of their trust funds. Such luxuries are not afforded Frances. Later while crashing in a co-worker’s apartment, Frances awkwardly asks for the keys to an acquaintance’s apartment in France and spends a single weekend there buying things off of her credit card and sleeping all day. The traditional version of an artist in Paris does not apply here; Frances is messy: jet lagged and alone, the art galleries are closed, and she still is not dancing. She has no center and no money and still is calling her creative friends and hailing the French sky. Her life is awash in the process of creation but lacks the practice and drive to be wholly anything, artistic or otherwise.


Frances Ha is groundbreaking because it portrays a woman as messy and unfinished without chastising her. As the film draws to a close, Frances is living at her old college and working with undergrads, and the part of her life is funny and embarrassing, but honest and temporary. This film gives us the sense that the artistic process does not come easily and through Frances’ uncomfortable employment “failures” we begin to see her future. After an unsatisfactory summer living in a dorm room at her alma mater, clothes scattered on the floor and phone calls from her best friend missed, Frances’ life slowly starts to take dynamic shape. She begins a mundane day-job as a receptionist and is able to afford rent for her own apartment, all the while choreographing her own dance show. Finally, Frances can be seen in what she believes is her element: movement. She is doing what she set out to do and through the creation of a dance show, she is living out her earlier declaration: “Sometimes it’s good to do what you’re supposed to do when you’re supposed to do it.” Her dance show is experimental and seems odd, very modern, and undoubtedly messy, but from that messiness, Frances’ talent is finally on display and is exciting to see.  

Frances Ha’s storyline is riddled with France’s failures and triumphs. She is turned down from a dance company, only to form her new one in the end. Her living situation is always in flux and she bounces from apartment to apartment until finally finding a place to create and reinvent herself. Frances’ dancing goes from sporadic to constant as the film progresses and she becomes even more focused on her dream of being a successful modern dancer. Through Frances’ path to self-discovery, the viewer is taught that the process of becoming an artist, finding one’s voice, or taking pride in a creation comes from failure, rejection, vulnerability, and loss. Frances must be messy in order to create. She must learn from credit card debt and sitting on the couch. She must be denied access to dance companies, to her best friends, to housing, and to opportunities so she can make her own way as a creative being. Frances tells us that the pursuit of art makes everything messy so that it, like the final dance of the film, can fall together in the end.