Film festivals, once an elite institution dominated by cineastes, insiders and glamorous cities like Cannes and Venice, have become a growth industry. Teensy towns now have them, as do islands — from Nantucket to Staten Island. These festivals have also become more specialized, both by genre and age; one of the most robust new trends is film festivals for kids. So it’s perhaps not surprising that somebody has now put together a Sex Ed Film Festival. (More on TIME.com: What One Study Reveals About Teens’ Risky Sex Lives)
The Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina (APPCNC) is organizing the event, which is either a pretty shrewd way of reaching kids who think they’re too sophisticated to watch after-school specials, or the weirdest cult-movie gathering ever.
Scheduled for Feb. 19 in Chapel Hill, the festival will show Saved, the Macauley Culkin, Jena Malone, Mandy Moore teen satire, and two documentaries. (Among the latter is The Gloucester 18, which was sparked by a controversial TIME Magazine story about a “pregnancy pact” at a Massachusetts high school.)
While overall pregnancy rates have been dropping among teens, the U.S. still has the highest rate of teen pregnancy of any country that produces reliable counts. The problem tends to be concentrated in poorer areas, where girls possibly have less optimism about their future. The Internet lit up this week with reports of a school in Memphis whose student body included 90 girls who had given birth or were pregnant in the last year. (More on TIME.com: 5 Little-Known Truths About American Sex Lives)
North Carolina has the 14th highest rate of teen pregnancy in the U.S. but it is headed in the right direction, falling 4.4% last year. Rural counties are more affected than urban ones, and the rate is highest among Hispanic students. While a film festival is unlikely to be a cure-all, it might be a safe way to spark some valuable discussion.
In fact, the organizers hope to inspire would-be activists more than at-risk teen moms. “We are really hoping to use the event as a way to inspire young people and their parents to get involved in advocating for effective education and access to sexual health services,” says the APPCNC’s Elizabeth Finley. “We think youth can be some of our strongest advocates for those things, and that the film festival is a great way to education them and inspire them to act.”
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