Congratulations to Wyatt Thompson ’23 and Sundiata Enuke ’24 on being named 2023 National YoungArts Foundation (YoungArts) finalists for their films Through Fire and Jackie. Chosen from a pool of approximately 8,000 applicants, Wyatt and Sundiata are among 139 finalists in 10 disciplines, who the YoungArts Foundation considers to be the most accomplished young visual, literary, and performing artists from across the country. This is the third year in a row that a student, and now students, from the Viewpoint Film Program, has been named a YoungArts finalist.
This year, Sundiata and Wyatt were among just 10 filmmakers selected as finalists in the Film category through a rigorous blind adjudication process by a discipline-specific panel of artists. YoungArts award winners gain access to one of the most comprehensive programs for artists in the United States in which they will have opportunities for financial, creative, and professional development support throughout their entire careers.
Wyatt said, “I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity to participate in the YoungArts competition and be named a finalist. Teenage addiction is a widespread issue that does not receive the attention it deserves. Through Fire tells the story of three teenagers who struggled with different forms of addiction. Through music, photography, and football, they developed new passions and discovered a path forward. The three teens, from very different backgrounds, knew they wanted help, but struggled to find people to talk to. With YoungArts, I hope my message will reach others struggling with addictions and let them know they’re not alone. Everyone goes through struggles in life, but nobody should be defined by them.”
Sundiata added, “It is an honor to be chosen as a 2023 YoungArts finalist. I made Jackie at the height of a worldwide movement toward transparency in technology, as human rights violations become more and more rampant in artificial intelligence. Getting a platform for not only my film but algorithmic justice is something I dreamed of. Being among a community of young filmmakers is such an incredible opportunity to grow as a more meaningful storyteller and imaginative person.”
Dan O’Reilly-Rowe, Middle and Upper School Film Teacher, had words of praise for both Wyatt and Sundiata as filmmakers:
“It is an incredible honor for one of our student filmmakers’ work to be recognized by YoungArts. To have two students from our program honored in the same year is just off the charts. I’m incredibly proud of these students and the work that they were able to produce in the Documentary and Film II classes. In many ways these two students’ work is very different from each other’s: Wyatt is being honored for his documentary filmmaking, and Sundiata for a partially animated science fiction short. But there is a commonality in the way each of their films address important issues and take seriously the potential for film to act as a forum where young people can help shape big conversations that affect their lives. Sundiata and Wyatt represent a type of filmmaker whose work is of the highest technical and creative standards, and who have inspirational approaches to the power of filmmaking to make the world a better place.”
YoungArts awards are given in three categories: Finalist, Honorable Mention, and Merit. This year, YoungArts award winners at all levels will receive cash prizes between $100 and $10,000 and the opportunity to learn from leading artists such as Debbie Allen, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Frank Gehry, and Wynton Marsalis. YoungArts award winners become eligible for exclusive creative and professional development support including a wide range of fellowships, residencies, and awards; virtual and in-person presentation opportunities in collaboration with major venues nationwide; additional financial support; and access to YoungArts Post, a free, private digital network for YoungArts artists to connect, collaborate, and learn about additional opportunities.
As YoungArts finalists, Sundiata and Wyatt will participate in National YoungArts Week in Miami in January 2023 featuring virtual classes, workshops, and mentorship from leading artists in their fields as well as virtual performances and an exhibition for the public.
Sundiata and Wyatt also are eligible to be nominated to become a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts, one of the highest honors given high school seniors bestowed by the President of the United States. As the sole nominating agency, every year YoungArts nominates 60 artists to the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars. The Commission then selects the 20 U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts.