Donâ€™t follow your dreams. Lead them. – Zuhaeb Hassan, 17, Frank Hurt Secondary School
Five years ago, I was 15 years old and probably more overweight than I am now. At that age, I worried about nothing more than my friends, school, extracurriculars, and who was booting for me on the weekend.Â Not once did it cross my mind that there was a life beyond my bubble, and that everyone outside of that bubble experienced different thingsâ€¦Â well what do you expect, I grew up in North Burnaby, (no offence to all you Burnaby heads)!
Thereâ€™s a reason why Iâ€™m pointing out my not-so-adorable youthful ignorance here. I was lucky enough to view the films that were submitted into the 2011Reel Youth Film Festival, and that was enough for me to want to punch my 15 year old self in the acne-ous face. The regret I was dwelling in after watching these films was immediately overwhelmed with pride and support for these young filmmakers who touched on important and extremely relevant youth issues related to the contemporary teenager using film, claymation, music, metaphor, documentary, irony, humor, or whatever else it is that a filmmaker can pull out of their tool kit in order to spread their message successfully (how do you like that for a run on sentence?).
The topics covered were just incredible, and were ones that I honestly did not expect to see arise within these certain youth groups: conserving energy (Wake Up), poverty awareness (Feeling Held Back?), the conservation of BC forests (BC Forest Inc.), the water industry (H2O), blindness (Imagine), and censorship (C: None of the Above). I donâ€™t even know the first thing about censorship and Iâ€™m a bloody 20 year old Communications Major! But needless to say, that film helped me to understand how youth is affected by it, as did all the films in terms of shedding light on important and critical issues taking place worldwide; not just in Burnaby. Each film taught me something different, gave me new perspectives on issues I currently am aware of, and made me feel empowered to do something about the ones in which I feel strongly about. Knowing that adolescents are very aware of problems we as youth Â are facing with the spread of STDâ€™s (Life is Precious), bullying (Epiphany, Secret Club, Philanthropy, Help Me Please), and gay and transgendered youth (Breakfast at Jazmines) made me- and whoever else watching these films- fully understand that youth arenâ€™t as stupid as they are often made out to be in mainstream film and TV.
One of the popular themes pulled apart in each film was social media, yet all films surrounding around the issues it implicates were all done very differently. The varying ways in which these films were executed (Do You Like Whatâ€™s on your Mind?, Fatebook, Facebully, and OMG) differentiated them from one another, yet they still managed to be resourceful and wildly entertaining. There was an evident influence from older classic genre of films (La Baguette Fatale), and Iâ€™m still left wondering how the hell you do this whole claymation business (Coonpipes).The professionality (I just made up the word, get over it.) of the films was pretty awesome, considering they didnâ€™t look like dinky high school projects where the cuts, edits, and continuity are nonexistent.
As always, I had questions for these youth filmmakers that needed to be answered. I was lucky enough to get to speak with the creators of OMG, Breakfast at Jasmines, Epiphany, and Do You Like Whatâ€™s on Your Mind. Although I asked them all the same questions (I really need a new method for this shit, hey?), there answers varied as much as they were inspiring.
I kid you not, the notes I took while watching this short went as follows: HAHAHA LOLOLOL. Iâ€™d take a picture of it for proof, but I am way too lazy. But nonetheless, sixteen year olds Paige Smith, Brietta Stewart, and Bronwyn Henderson took on the topic of social media and itâ€™s affects on youthsâ€™ communication skills, and made it their own through a very humorous approach. â€œIt is something we have personally experienced and get frustrated byâ€, says Smith, â€œ[and] we wanted todayâ€™s youth to understandÂ that face to face communication cannot be replaced byÂ Facebook and cellÂ phonesâ€¦face-face is the most important type of communication and can develop better social skills.â€
Degrassi did the whole â€œtransgendered youthâ€ thing, and I guess it was fine, but Breakfast at Jasmines seemed that much more realistic, taking on a documentary style form. A camera follows a young transgendered teen, and walks the audience through a brief process on what itâ€™s like to be trasgendered person amongst a world of unknowing people. 21 year old filmmaker Colin Klippensten answered this question so well that I just had to out the whole damn thing in there: These films touch on some serious issues regarding racism, poverty,Â transgendered youth, and of course, social media. Why was thisÂ particularÂ issue that you chose to discuss in your film chosen, and have you personally been affected by it? Why is it important to raise awareness of these issues to youth (ages 15-25)?
Any message regarding anti-homophobia/anti-bullying of any sort is an important issue. I was bullied in High School and so many others are as well. Since the silent films, media has shown queerÂ individualsÂ as someone to joke at. Take any mainstream film and if a man is shpwn to be feminine or anything, he becomes the brunt of the joke. Dress a guy up as a girl and it’s nothing but laughs, but what does that mean for the individual struggling to be accepted. Finally films are showing what it means to be gay, to be different and accepted and it’s incredible, a paradigm shift of our perspective on society. Too many sucides have been committed due to bullying and this needs to stop. Campaigns like “It gets better” by Dan Savage have shown that itâ€™s ok to be different. Our differences make life so much more diverse, exciting and engagingâ€¦Stand-up, take courage, donâ€™t be afraid to make a difference. I’ve been struggling for years to stand up, to voice and be who I am, so take courage and donâ€™t give up!
Well do you? Depending on what Iâ€™m thinking about, I usually do. But throw the stresses and dramas of social networking in the mix and suddenly, Iâ€™m not so sure I like it. Throw cyber bullying in the mix, and I dislike it very much (Mark Zuckerberg needs to get his shit together and give us a dislike button). The amazing and hilarious film â€œDo You Like Whatâ€™s on Your Mind?â€ highlights the idea of cyber bullying via Facebook, and how each and every comment and â€˜likeâ€™ has an effect on the targeted person. â€œWe chose social networking because everyone uses Facebook or has some sort of account of something,â€ says Samantha Novecosky, 15; one of the talented filmmakers involved in creating the film.
Her and her team of students responsible for creating the film decided to take a humorous approach to combat this depressing issue. â€œLots of kids laugh at it, but then theyâ€™re like â€˜â€¦wowâ€™â€ says 16 year old Kaisen Jones Â (another filmmaker for this filmâ€¦obvy), â€œAnd [humor] actually gets that across and they start to think â€˜maybe we shouldnâ€™t do this bullying anymoreâ€™â€. Finally! Someone who agrees with me that humor combats all! Samantha goes on to say humor keeps people interested and makes them want to see moreâ€¦preach sister!Â All humor aside, Kaisen and Samanthaâ€™s film discussed a serious issue, and they have a seriously great message for those of you who are being bullied. Here it goes:
If a person is bullying you and you know they have gotten bullied at home or whatever, they are just trying to make themselves feel better, stronger, and bigger than you because they are feeling down. – Samantha
If youâ€™re getting bullied, confront them and try to work it out in a calm, nice manner. And if it continues after that, then talk to a teacher, parent or guardian. But some kids are not comfortable enough to tell teachers and parents about their problems, so talk to one of your peers in an older grade or something and try to work it out that way. But try and go to a parent or guardian. The person whoâ€™s bullying you probably has had something done to them. If you can, help them and ask them if they need help. If you could help them, thatâ€™s one person being stopped right there. – Kaisen
There must be something different in the water at Frankhurt Secondary, because â€“as youâ€™ve seen above- these kids are stars when it comes to promoting awareness and solution for bullying.Â Amy Foreman (17), Kiran Cheema (17), Zuhaeb Hassan (17), Josh Cameron (16), and Kevin Luong (16) created a film which outlined what it feels like to be bullied and how to stand up for someone who is clearly a lot more helpless than their bully. Kiran, who has to be one of the best 17 year olds Iâ€™ve come across in a while, tells me the following:
Our videos are based on intervening during bullying situations and we chose that issue because we know that bullying exists. Itâ€™s in everyoneâ€™s school and in everyoneâ€™s everyday life. And so some ppl see it and they know itâ€™s wrong but they donâ€™t what to do about it so we wanted to make a video where we show how to intervene and make things better. Thatâ€™s why this issue was chosen; to show people what to do, and to tell them things could change. – Kiran
A lot of people are blinded by it and say itâ€™s a part of high school, it happens and we have to deal with it. But it doesnâ€™t have to be that way. – Amy
Iâ€™ve got more great bullying advice from the Frankhurt kids for you all. God, I wish I could have been friends with these kids when I was in high school.
You have to talk it out with someone. If you donâ€™t know what to do, the best thing is to talk to a trusted adult or tell a friend that you trust and they will have an idea of what to do and when you talk about it, it relieves the stress and tension. If you go to someone for help, you will get help eventually. Donâ€™t keep it within you, because that can lead to you bullying someone or you building on these emotions and one day you do something you really shouldnâ€™t. Fighting awareness is everything, so if you do feel passionate about an issue like bullying, then do something about it. Figure out if thereâ€™s a program going on in your community or school to fight awareness. – Kiran
November 3 -Â Vancouver, BCÂ - at Denman Cinema (1737 Comox St.) – 7pm
in partnership with theÂ Environmental Youth Alliance
November 25 -Â Ucluelet, BCÂ - Ucluelet Community Centre – 7pm
November 26 -Â Rossland, BCÂ - Rossland Miner’s Hall – 12pm-1:30pm
in partnership with theÂ Rossland Council for Arts and CultureÂ
part of theÂ Rossland Mountain Film Festival
For an update schedule, check out reelyouth.ca! Thank you to every single youth who spoke with me, and thank you to every single youth who created a movie. You are all making a difference, and that is so inspiringâ€¦and you were a part of VIFF, so your message will be heard!