Institute History

  • 1995 Sundance Film Festival


What happens when you give a video camera, some lights, and a little training to three street-smart teenagers in North Philadelphia, Hollywood, and Harlem for an eight-month period and tell them to record their lives? The resulting footage (edited by Peter Kinoy, who gave the teenage subjects the final say in terms of content) is candid, touching, frustrating, and sometimes frightening, but never without hope and dignity.

Frank is a gang banger from North Philadelphia who has long forsaken his real family for his homies. His world is filled with hate, guns, and bullets, and his video technique, featuring some forceful experimental images, palpably reflects it. Adawna and her sister Gloria have run away from their Arkansas home to live in Los Angeles. They effectively capture the runaway community, living in squats and out of garbage cans on Hollywood Boulevard. La Traun is a young man, torn between partying with his friends on the tough streets of Harlem and studying hard to realize his dream of college. When we meet La Traun, he is on a journey to visit family and meet up with his long-lost father.

Without the presence of an interviewer, Frank, Adawna, and La Traun often tape themselves alone, and the result is frank and vulnerable. From these separate and very distinct portraits of disenfranchised youth emerge some common threads: great tenacity, the need for basic understanding, and an acute feeling of abandonment. Through the pain surfaces a basic drive to survive and ultimately succeed in the face of adversity. We are also reminded as a society that “the youth of today” is not just a political catch phrase but a population of kindred souls, many of whom must confront the harshness of an unforgiving world even as they are discovering themselves.

— Christian Gaines

Screening Details

As you use our Online Archives, please understand that the information presented from Festivals, Labs, and other activities is taken directly from official publications from each year. While this information is limited and doesn't necessarily represent the full list of participants (e.g. actors and crew), it is the list given to us by the main film/play/project contact at the time, based on the space restrictions of our publications. Each entry in the Online Archives is meant as a historical record of a particular film, play, or project at the time of its involvement with Sundance Institute. For this reason, we can only amend an entry if a name is misspelled, or if the entry does not correctly reflect the original publication. If you have questions or comments, please email [email protected]