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Film Festival for the First Graduating IB Film Class

June, 2012
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Despite heavy rain on a Saturday morning, a large turnout consisting of parents, students, faculties, and film enthusiasts gathered at the Shanghai Community International School Hongqiao campus (SCIS Hongqiao) where the first annual SCIS HQ Film Festival was held. The highly anticipated student film festival was part of the SCIS Carnival of Arts, which featured various art displays including photo exhibitions, theater performances, artwork displays, and choir performances. However, one of the main highlights of the day was none other than the film screening and the film awards ceremony. 

The 1st Annual SCIS HQ Film Festival showcased a total of 25 films, all of which were produced by current high school students from SCIS Hongqiao. A majority of the student filmmakers are enrolled in the school’s IB film program. The 25 films had a total running time of 2.4 hours, with each film running approximately 3-7 minutes. The maximum time allowed for each film was under 7 minutes. These 25 films competed for two prestigious awards known as the Jury’s Choice and the People’s Choice Award.  

“We created two trophies to push the students to compete for the best,” says Erick Pessoa, IB Film teacher at SCIS Hongqiao and film festival organizer. Weeks prior, Pessoa worked diligently with local designers, attempting to create a truly one –of-a-kind trophy. Through much trial and error, they managed to create two marvelous trophies resembling a film reel twisted upwards. “Other than writing up the project proposal for the festival, the hardest part was definitely the manufacturing of the trophies,” Pessoa says jokingly. “We wanted them to be like sculptures and it took me months to finally get them manufactured. I wanted to make something that the kids can be proud of for winning when they look back year.”

The jury was comprised of academic professors and acclaimed filmmakers from all over the world. All films were uploaded to the festival’s official website where all members of the jury could watch and evaluate remotely over a span of 20 days. The jury based their evaluations on the IB Film production criteria, which included professional and technical skills, effective use of film language, originality, and creativity. “I initially watched all the films once and made a selection of the ten shorts that stood out the most. Since each judge had to pick a list of five films, I reviewed my initial selection and tried to focus on what were the original elements developed by each filmmaker,” says André Pereira, an acclaimed filmmaker and one of the judges for the film festival. “What most impressed me was the variety of different genres and techniques used by the students. It is exciting to see students develop different ideas and explore everything from a flat out comedy to a crime thriller and an animation.” After hours of meticulous viewing and analysis, five finalists were selected and screened at the Awards Ceremony to determine the winning film for the Jury’s Choice Award. The top five films were Fatherhood (Director: Lena Hamelin), It’s Looking Grim (Director: Anant Robinson), iDdiction (Director: Emma Liese Robertson), Destiny (Director: Celine Vang), and Beyond Words (Director: Vivian Che). 

The Winner for the Jury’s Choice Award was revealed after the screening of the top 5 finalists and Fatherhood, a film directed by Lena Hamelin, walked away with the prestigious award. Lena Hamelin is currently a senior and part of the first graduating IB Film class. Unlike her peers, Hamelin didn’t cast any school mates as actors but instead used her own family members including her father, brother, sister, and even her dog to act in her film. The story revolves around a father feeling the pressure of fatherhood and given a chance to go back in time to relive his youthful years. It is a heartwarming story about family relationships and the meaning of happiness. 

When asked about her experience directing her father and what the award meant to her, Hamelin answered with a smile with lots of emotion. “My Dad was surprisingly a really good actor,” says Hamelin with a chuckle. “He was very cooperative and really happy to be involved with my project. I am definitely proud to leave high school with an award this significant and my family means a lot to me, so seeing them on screen and seeing something I did get recognized really gave me a lot of confidence.” 

With the Jury’s Choice Award announced, all eyes were fixated on the People’s Choice Award, an award not determined by the jury, but instead chosen by the people. Throughout the carnival, all 25 films were screened inside a classroom and all viewers were allowed to vote for his or her personal favorite. “My favorite film was iDdiction. It’s creative and funny and it revolves around all the games we know, so everyone can relate to it,” says Tanner Vaughan, a junior IB film student at SCIS who directed the film Yourself, one of the 25 films in the festival. After hearing from a student filmmaker, I also caught up with one of the teachers as well to see which film she liked best for the People’s Choice. “iDdiction was clever; it’s interesting the filmmaker recognized that people are on their digital devices all the time now and it’s becoming a real problem in our society,” says Alyssa Allgaier, drama/photography teacher at SCIS. “The festival offers great insight to see the psyche of these teenage kids and learn how they see their lives.” 

The people had spoken and, iDdiction, a film directed by Emma Liese Robertson, won the People’s Choice Award. iDdiction talks about a guy addicted to his iPad. Like every other addiction, his “iDdiction” started to interfere in his life and relationships. With iPad, iPhone, and other digital devices becoming immensely popular nowadays, the audience can easily relate to this film. “I wanted to make a film pertinent to modern society so it would be relevant,” says Emma Robertson, a senior IB Film student. Robertson has the aspiration to pursue a career in filmmaking and plans on going to film school in the near future. “Overall I loved it. IB film was definitely my favorite class,” exclaims Robertson. “Now when I watch a film, I can analyze it and know why they do what they do”.  

The Jury’s Choice and the People’s Choice Award and screening provided the filmmakers with the chance to earn recognition for their talent and hard work, but there is so much more behind the scenes as countless hours of dedication and preparation were put into these films. This is where the SCIS IB Film Program comes in, as it provided the students with the knowledge and technical abilities required to convert their creativity to visuals. The 2-year IB Film Immersion Program provides students with everything from a complete study of film history and cinema studies to the technical aspects of film production. The IB film students had a choice of either taking a final exam or producing a short film (equivalent of a final exam) and had the option of choosing one of the five roles in production: director, cinematographer, sound, editing, and writing. 

“This year marks the first graduating IB Film class and the film festival is a good way to celebrate them and showcase their work,” says Pessoa. The IB film class combines cinema studies with hands-on production and the classes operate in an 8-day cycle, alternating between the 4 types of class emphasis 1) Technical production training 2) Film analysis 3) Film history 4) and Skills evaluation.  These consist of tests, quizzes and small projects such as replicating scenes from movies. Second Year IB film students are required to complete three assessments consisting of an oral presentation, a written documentary script, and a final film project. 

“SCIS is a highly regarded art school. Its music, arts, and theater programs are amazingly good, and the only thing missing was film,” says a passionate Pessoa. “I want to bring the film program up to the same level as other art forms at SCIS and holding a film festival is a good start.” As the film festival concluded, Erick Pessoa was very proud of all his students that participated in the event and shared his humble advice to all the aspiring student filmmakers. “Don’t be scared to create something different and don’t settle for average,” says Pessoa. “Strive for the best!”

By Richard Chung

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