Students honored for illuminating big issues on big screen, take home $3,500 in prizes

Free film screenings/discussions with winners to be held in Chatham, N.Y. and Great Barrington, Mass.


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SHEFFIELD, Mass. — The partners behind the Bridging Divides, Healing Communities Youth Film Challenge today announced three winning short films highlighting divisions and inequities in society, and how young people are tackling these challenges in their families, schools and communities.  

Yonah Sadeh, a student at Bard College at Simon’s Rock from Falls Village, Conn., received first place and $2,000 for his film on affordable housing, “In Our Backyard”; Tommy Tranfaglia, a student at Endicott College from Lenox, Mass., was awarded the $1,000 second place prize for his film on learning and attention disabilities, “Misunderstood”; and Danny Wilkinson, a student at Mount Everett Regional High School from Sheffield, Mass., earned $500 and third place for his film about body image and self-esteem, “Self image.” The challenge was led by the Berkshire Film and Media Collaborative and the Civic Life Project, with funding from Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation. 

Honorable mentions went to: Rachael Bentz, of Arts in Recovery for Youth from Pittsfield, Mass., for “The Story of Indigo Phoenix”; Anna Coon, a student at the University of Miami from Sharon, Conn., for “Hidden Insecurities”; Samantha Hoffman, a student at Chatham High School from East Chatham, N.Y., for “He/She/They”; and Madison Long, a student at Housatonic Valley Regional High School from Canaan, Conn., for “Under Pressure.” 

The winning films and a selection of other submissions will be screened at two local venues, to be followed by short panel discussions with the audience. These free events will be held at The Crandell Theatre in Chatham, N.Y., on Saturday, Dec. 4, at 11 a.m. (tickets at and the Daniel Arts Center, Bard College at Simon’s Rock, Great Barrington, Mass., on Sunday, Dec. 12 at 3 p.m. ( Seating is limited and RSVP is required. All attendees must show proof of vaccination and wear masks.   

Serving as judges for the challenge were Jayne Atkinson (Berkshire County), an award-winning actor known primarily for her work in such hit television series as “24,” “House of Cards” and “Madam Secretary”; Gretchen Rennell Court (Berkshire County), a casting director for films such as “Flashdance,” “Children of a Lesser God” and “The Horse Whisperer”; Mirissa Neff (Columbia County), a documentary filmmaker who has worked as a producer and correspondent for PBS and public radio programs; Damon Osora (Litchfield County), chair of the English Department and film teacher at Housatonic Valley Regional High School in Falls Village, Conn.; and Matthew Penn (Berkshire County), an award-winning director of more than 150 primetime television dramas including “House,” “The Sopranos,” “NYPD Blue” and “Law & Order.”  

The Youth Film Challenge was open to residents ages 14 to 24 who live or go to school in Berkshire County, Mass., Columbia and northeast Dutchess counties, N.Y., and northwest Litchfield County, Conn.  

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