Young students from Surrey fed up with media stereotypes have shot powerful films about their real lives
By Surbhi Gogia
Thirteen students from Princess Margret High School have redefined the word ‘shooting’ in context of Surrey. It is has nothing to do with gangs, guns and drugs. It is related to lights, camera and action. The young students were trained for months as part of University (KPU) DigitalLENS storytelling project to shoot short films on daily youth life in Surrey.
“Mass media images of youth life in Surrey are stereotypical. They reduce everyday life in Surrey to gang violence, youth victimization, and cultural and religious conflicts,” said Katie Warfield, director of the Visual Media Workshop. “This is not the everyday reality of the youth we are working with. Their lives are rich and vibrant and they have incredible stories to tell.”
What they captured through their lens too was completely opposite of what media portrays about Surrey youth. Every participant made a 5-minutes film about what concerns them most. Each work is a highly introspective piece talking about various issues of youth representation, and explorations of gender, body image, racism and artistic expression.
On May 13 these stories were screened at KPU Surrey Conference Centre. Harleen Chahal, a young girl from Surrey challenged images of a girls she sees in magazines and how her peers just focus on looks. Another movie spoke about a student’s personal experience of moving to Canada and making friends. Another film done by a Chinese student was crafted in an interesting manner. It talked about his desire to be an actor and the limited portrayal of Chinese people in movies. Another student of African descent talked about his everyday struggle with society about the colour of his skin and how he copes up with everyday negative comments.
Warfield says that the idea to involve young students came from their classroom discussions. “I teach media and diversity. We talk a lot about representation, news and any mass media image. Time and again what came up in many discussions was those living in Surrey talking about personal image and how frustrated they were about the representation of youth life in Surrey. If you are young and live in Surrey your life is all about guns and gang violence.”
Once KPU started this project it tied up with Princess Margret school. “The school’s close proximity to KPU was one of the main reason. It was easier for students to come and attend the classes after school,” she says.
They learned about creating short stories with incorporation of photographs, video, animation, sound and often the narrative voice of the person who makes the video. Explaining the reason why digital literacy is important, Warfield says, “Digital and multimodal illiteracies are emerging and invaluable skills that are increasingly being mandated at provincial and federal levels of government and within education theory. We can no longer only think of literacy as learning to read word on a page but must think of it as learning to read and write through photos, video, sound, music, animation and interactivity.”
The digital skills learned today by these young students will be useful ten years down the line once they will move from school into the shifting workforce, she says.
The project was suggested by Warfield and directed by her, Deepak Gill who works with Surrey East Community Corrections, Aisha Amijee and Surya Govende, of the Golden Thread Stories were part of the project as instructors.