Reel Flicks documentary program gives Lawrence Heights youth a voice

Reel Flicks documentary program gives Lawrence Heights youth a voice

September 14, 2011

Ten Lawrence Heights teenagers are filmmakers, thanks to a unique program sponsored by Social Housing Services Corporation, the National Film Board of Canada (NFB), and Toronto Community Housing.

Equipped with new skills, video cameras and high-end editing software, five youth teams produced films as diverse as the residents of their community. The films offered a candid look at teen pregnancy, a commentary on gun and gang violence, and a portrait of a talented local artist.

�It made me be more visual in how I think,� says Ayan Samatar, �I was able to put a story together from my thoughts and make it become a reality.� Ekram Abubaker, who worked with Ayan on Left in the Dark, adds, �I guess it allowed me to have a voice through the media. Hopefully I will continue to pursue filmmaking.�

Filmmakers Ekram Abubaker (left) and Ayan Samatar (right)�

Reel Flicks was designed to engage youth living in social housing, equipping them with tools to voice their stories. With Lawrence Heights slated for revitalization, the community is looking forward. Programs like Reel Flicks offer young people the training they need to express themselves and share realistic and inspirational life experiences, which are stories the media don�t often cover.

In training sessions facilitated by NFB mentors, program participants learned how to create a documentary from the early planning stages through to postproduction.

�Filmmakers receive certificates of completion at the National Film Board

"It was an absolutely fantastic experience,� says Christopher �Junior� Riley, whose film, The Jump Off, profiled aspiring Olympic triple jumper Jacob Zorella, who lives and works in the Lawrence Heights area. �I learned a lot. I think every person that would want to do filmmaking should have a chance to do this. It�s not everyday that you get a chance to learn how to make films with the National Film Board of Canada.�

The films premiered at the NFB Mediatheque on Thursday, July 8, and a day later at the Lawrence Heights Community Centre. The films engaged the audiences, eliciting positive and enthusiastic reactions, with many young people pointing out their neighbours and friends onscreen.

The project partners plan to find other screening opportunities for these stories and their filmmakers, and hope to enter them in film festivals.

Filmmaker Christopher �Junior� Riley (left) with Olympic hopeful, Jacob Zorella (right) �

"It felt powerful. It felt like everyone was listening and paying attention to what my film had to say. I think all the films could change this community by giving something positive and maybe the media would pay more attention to the community positively,� says Riley.