The inaugural Open Mind Film Festival is presented by The Friends of the Semel Institute at UCLA. High school students from across the United States have submitted scores of films highlighting their experiences and concerns about mental health. These short films (mostly under 4 minutes) tell stories about family problems, isolation, eating disorders, suicide, and more. All were made this year under challenging pandemic conditions. 

At this virtual festival, the films which were chosen as finalists by our judges will be screened. In addition there will be a panel discussion with several filmmakers to discuss their ideas for using film to tell stories about mental health and to help reduce the stigma associated with mental illness. The festival will conclude with a presentation of the first Open Mind Film Festival Awards. The nine films to be screened are:


Filters of Life - Angelica Rubio 
Golden Valley High School
Merced, CA 

Delirium - Joe Grode
Harvard-Westlake School 
North Hollywood, CA

Growing Up COVID - Rylee Landau 
Fieldston High School
The Bronx, NY

Delusions - Rebecca Anton 
Frank Sinatra School of the Arts
Queens, NY

With Love - Mily Patton 
Mission Vista High School
Oceanside, CA

Keep Breathing - Gabriella Hsu 
Colleyville Heritage High School
Colleyville, TX

Bloom - Talia Jacnuk 
Sage Hill High School 
Newport Coast, CA

Suburbia - Jennifer Li 
Beverly Hills High School 
Beverly Hills, CA

Reflections - Harlow Schuman 
Viewpoint High School
Calabasas, CA

The screening time for the films is 35 minutes. This will be followed by a conversation with some of the 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.

AJ Mendez, New York Times best selling author, mental health advocate, animal rights activist, and Friends Board member, will host the festival. Our judges are:

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.

Please join us to view the films and to meet the next generation of filmmakers who share their stories.


Thursday, May 6 - 5:00 PM PT
Registration is required for this free live private Zoom event.


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