A film festival featuring student-produced documentaries drew an enthusiastic audience of more than 200 to City View Alternative Senior School recently. Reel View is the culminating project for students who were in the 2010-11 grade 8 Media Studies program under the direction of teacher David Stocker.
The films were screened in three locations at the west end school on November 3. Three themes that represent City View’s commitment to social justice provided the framework for project development: Local Politics, The Personal is Political, and Sacred Cows. "Education for peace and social justice has been the cornerstone of the curriculum at City View Alternative School for more than 13 years," said Stocker.
Students wrote, researched, filmed and edited each documentary. Stocker said that the project involved students interviewing three experts in the field that they were researching and filming. Those interviewed included Marg Morrison from Freedom to Read; Pearce Carefoote, noted author of Forbidden Fruit; Rosario Marchese, MPP for Trinity Spadina; Bruce McCuaig, CEO of Metrolinx; Dr. David McKeown, Medical Officer of Health for the City of Toronto; and Michael Schmidt, raw milk activist and farmer, among many others.
The students' work made a strong impression. Parents, staff, students and guests such as TDSB Ward 9 Trustee Maria Rodrigues applauded the stellar filmmaking and commitment of the students. One the many notable guests that attended the screenings was Lawrence Hill, acclaimed author of The Book of Negroes. Hill took a particular interest in filmmaker Lily Shields-Anderson’s film about censorship, Banned & Burned. Hanan Paxton-Harding Riggs’ film Dirty Diesel, about the Metrolinx diesel rail corridor expansion in the Greater Toronto Area, resonated with guest and newly-elected MPP Jonah Schein.
Other documentaries screened included: The Island Airport by Theo Harley and Christian Mittelstaedt; Pound Seizures: the Ultimate Violation by Brittney Johnston and Ines Valente; The Forgotten: Alzheimer’s Disease by Margaret Rose and Clara Pottie; Ready, Fire, Aim: ADHD by Soleil Decaudin-Prendergast and Kiyomi Coburn; What’s in That Syringe? (a critical look at vaccinations) by Hannah Hart and Sophie Antonyshyn; Raw Milk: Right to Choose by Lucas Zambonelli and Hannah Mittelstaedt; and An Olympic Choice by Sasa Popovich. The student film makers, now attending various high schools, were poised and articulate in Q & A sessions that followed each screening. In keeping with the spirit of City View Alternative, the students also used the event to collect more than $350 in donations to support The Stop Community Food Centre.
This is the first year that the school has formally screened films. However, the Media Studies program has facilitated student documentaries for the past 13 years. The current school staff working collaboratively to support students with film and festival development, including Stocker, Principal Sheena Matheson, Shawna Watson, Christine Saraceno, Michelle Munk, and Carolyn Jankovskis, are already looking forward to the next screening. "This year's group of grade 8 students are busy working with the team on new documentaries that promise to keep up the tradition of excellence and social justice advocacy," said Matheson..."Social justice advocacy"--it may not be terribly educational, and it probably has about as much business in public schools as, say, a fundamentalist mosque, but it is a perfect way to plant a whole new crop of little leftists: If there's one thing the TDSB understands, it's that you reap what you sow.