Open Mind Film Festival

The inaugural Open Mind Film Festival for mental health was held on May 6th, 2021. High school students from across the U.S. submitted 76 films, nine of which were selected to be screened at this virtual festival.   


The host for the event was  AJ Mendez, New York Times best-selling author, mental health advocate, animal rights activist, and UCLA’s Friends of the Semel Institute Board member.


Judges for the festival were:


Robert Bilder, PhD, Director of UCLA’s Tennenbaum Center for the Biology of Creativity, head of the Mind Well pod in UCLA’s Healthy Campus Initiative; and involved in studies of the behavioral traits associated with exceptional creativity.


Kristy Guevara Flanagan, Associate Professor at UCLA’s School of Theatre, Film and Television and head of MFA Directing Documentary concentration, who has also produced award-winning documentary films.


Brett Rapkin, Emmy Award-winning producer, writer and director; founder and President of Podium Pictures, a production company focused on impact sports films; and writer and producer (in partnership with Michael Phelps) of The Weight of Gold, a documentary about mental health and Olympic athletes.


Screening time for the films was 35 minutes and was followed by a conversation with three filmmakers hosted by Dr. Yalda Uhls, founder of UCLA’s Center for Scholars & Storytellers. Yalda spent 15 years as a film executive and went on to earn a PhD in developmental psychology at UCLA. She is the author of Media Moms and Digital Dads.


The three winning films addressed abuse and alcohol use, suicidal thoughts, and eating disorders. 


Please join us next year for the Open Mind Film Festival 2022 where we will welcome a new slate of films created by high school students addressing their concerns about mental health issues.