In the months since now 14-year-old Kalia Jones made her film debut with “The Power of Hope,” an animated short film aimed at empowering women, the film and its filmmaker have garnered tremendous attention.
The film, which tells the story of a young woman with big dreams, has since been shown at various film festivals and is eligible for nomination to a number of awards, including an Academy Award and NAACP Image Award, with those nominations set to be released in the coming weeks — nominations that would be meaningful for the Golden Valley High School student. (Update: The film has been nominated for an Image Award.)
For Kalia’s father, Gerald, it’s a proud moment, as he recalls when Kalia first came to him and his wife with the idea to create a film.
“We knew she was passionate about it because we saw that she was always working on films in her spare time and watching the credits and asking questions and researching on her own … as long as I can remember she was doing this,” Gerald said. “So to see her come from that, … to an actual film that’s being considered for an Academy Award … I’m extremely proud.”
Most recently, Kalia’s film received the honor of being officially selected to be shown at the Pan African Film Festival, making her the youngest director to ever have her film accepted to the festival.
“There were 900 total submissions this year, and they picked 200,” Nicholas Stokes, PAFF technical support specialist, said. “(The PAFF) is ranked No. 3 film festival in the world and the No. 1 film festival in America in terms of African-American content.”
“This is wonderful — I am so proud of her,” Golden Valley Principal Sal Frias added. “She’s just a down-to-Earth, regular student who did something so remarkable. … She deserves all the accolades she’s going to get. … I’m on cloud nine that she’s a Golden Valley kid, and we look forward to seeing her grow.”
This is the first year in its 29-year history that the PAFF has transitioned from a traditional in-person festival to completely online and virtual, which has given the festival the opportunity to broaden its audience, with Stokes even saying that the festival plans on allowing the entire William S. Hart Union High School District to view Kalia’s film and others.
“I’m really happy that the film is finally getting out there because that was my goal,” Kalia said, adding that she had hoped to share it with people, especially those her age, which makes this most recent accomplishment so special.
In the film, the main character is inspired by the words of Michelle Obama, using them as motivation to follow her dreams amid her struggles. Similarly, Kalia has used some female figures in the film industry to inspire her.
“In the credits of the film, there’s a slide show of all the people … who inspired me,” Kalia added.
These inspirations include Obama, Oprah Winfrey and Ava DuVernay, among others — many of whom have since reached out to her since the release of the film, along with notable animation companies, such as Disney and Dreamworks.
“This is my first film and I haven’t had a lot of experience with this, and I really learned a lot from doing this and I’m still continuing to learn a lot from all these people that I’m meeting and speaking with,” Kalia said. “I just hope to continue working with a lot of people who inspire me.”
With a goal of making a positive mark on the world, Kalia’s already dreaming up her next project.
“I definitely do want to continue in this industry and just continue storytelling and putting myself out there,” Kalia added.
For more information on the film, visit @ThePowerOfHopeMovie on Instagram.