September, 2019
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Real issues on the reel

Real issues on the reel

Surrey kids pick up cameras to make movies on most heart wrenching issues

A group of ten young students from Surrey recently participated in a program to learn short-filmmaking. Although their films were only a couple of minutes long, each student included some truly moving and powerful content. Students shared their personal experiences and insights through their work. The program had a rather profound effect on each of the students in uniquely individual way.

DigitaLENS is an afterschool workshop for high school students throughout grades 8-12 which teaches students about digital storytelling which is the creation of short films which allow students to express their voice by telling their own personal experiences in relation to issues such as social justice, identity and the media. The program itself is offered in partnership with The Visual Media workshop, the Surrey School District, Princess Margaret Secondary and Kwantlen Polytechnic University. Additionally, it is made possible by funding from Telus and with the strong sponsorship of Freed Education Co.

This semester, students were led by instructor Aisha Azba Amijee. The students worked throughout the semester to create their films which centered on topics such as Islamophobia, misrepresentations of beauty in the media and experiences in overcoming bullying.

On January 6, these films were screened at the KPU Surrey campus at the Surrey Youth Digital Storytelling Screening Event.

Although all the short films were of social relevance, here is a glimpse of few films that touch everyone’s heart every day.

Islamophobia: Rahil

At first I did not completely understand what Islamophobia was. But when my teacher revealed the topic to my class I was intrigued that the little things that I paid no heed to were such huge factors in my life. I realized that all the things that I saw on the Internet and on the TV about my religion were completely wrong. I felt like I had to do something to show at least to my community that what they are seeing is not true.

When I started writing for my video, I was extremely immersed and started critically thinking on why people have to know about Islamophobia. I came to the conclusion that media has only shown the bad things that have happened in the history of Islam and being a Muslim. It is important for the word to spread about Islamophobia and how real it is and how it hurts so many people.  ​

Truth behind Being Judgmental: Jyot Sandhu

Through this story, I am trying to draw the attention of the youth towards two issues majorly.

Firstly, the misrepresentation created by media, where the truth remains hidden under the cover of dramatic false stories. It affects the lives of many, directly or indirectly. It’s my sincere appeal through a digital story that this powerful tool should be utilized with care. I have also tried to make our youth aware by sharing my own story of, how difficult it was to join The Princess Margaret High School, to shape my future. There were no regrets indeed! Therefore one should make the personal endeavours to find out the reality before getting misguided by the media.

Secondly, I wrote this story after I experienced the bitterness of this world. People carry two faces, they are fake, they speak sweetly with you and the opposite behind your back. This awful behaviour of humans often broke my heart. So, with the desire of bringing real love, happiness and peace to the society, I made an effort to show the people how beautiful all the souls are! Under the veil of ugly, black, brown, white, disfigured and displeasing faces, lay innocent hearts. It’s a bid to treat everyone with humanity. In place of judging others on their appearances we should rather join hands to eradicate suffering, sorrow and solitude.

Digital Lens Program has given us an opportunity to experience our hands on the latest technology. We are better equipped to perform in Techno-Smart World! I am now confident enough to give good presentations and benefit others along with myself. Its advantages multiplied when we were instructed by a highly motivating and affectionate guide, Aisha Amijee! The impressions she made on our lives will be treasured forever!

Women Empowerment: Wahiba Haddioui

I chose this theme because I felt that every feminist should hear my sorrowful history. But, as days passed, it got way better because of my resilience and strengths that made me who I am right now. Girls are known to be soft and caring humans and not to scream loud. That is why I encourage and dare every single feminist to try training with Yo Girl/Yo Bro and feel that sense of empowerment…

Thanks to DigitaLENS, I am more aware of my community and our world, and all its weaknesses. DigitaLENS, not only taught me about our community, it also helped me share my personal outlook on how us, girls, should be treated like. Yes, us feminists have different and unique identities, but, we should take responsibility of our safety, and be ready for any dangerous or unusual situations.

ON BULLYING: Aisha Amijee:stant daily pressures they felt by their peers to change themselves to fit into a “social norm”.

In class, we would do a weekly debrief about events that took place in their schools, homes and lives as well their personal experiences on topics we would discuss during lectures. At the beginning of the program, students were hesitant to share their personal opinions and as we went on to know each other better and established this program as a safe space to share what is going on in their lives, students passionately narrated their encounters with bullying or how they witnessed someone else being bullying or feeling extreme social pressure in high schools.

Inaaya Buksh, a grade 11 student at Panorama Ridge Secondary, opened up about the constant pressure to wake up at least an hour earlier before school to do your make up, hair and put together an outfit that was “instal-worthy” or that looked like what dolled up celebrity teens and young women like Kylie Jenner looked like. The trends for make up, hair and clothes have become extremely specific, difficult to obtain and change often. It’s hard to keep up with the trends, and often students don’t really want to but feel immense social pressure to do so in an effort to be included with their peers.

Dawson Ho, a grade 9 student at Princess Margaret Secondary, shared his experiences of changing elementary schools and instantly feeling his self-confidence deflate as he found it difficult to connect with his peers. Dawson enjoyed video games, such as Pokeman, and felt extremely pressured to like sports like the majority of his peers at his new elementary school and secondary school. He embarked on a journey to change himself so that he would fit in better and realized that he shouldn’t have to change his interests and persisted on being himself and slowly building his confidence back up. Now he spends his time with fewer but more authentic friends who whether they share his interests or not, don’t pressure him to change himself.

Fartun Hirsi, a grade 12 student at Princess Margaret Secondary, courageously told us the story of how her elementary school years were ” a living hell” due to bullying. She was bullied for being tall, and for being different. Fartun came to Canada as a refugee, living in Kenya and Somalia before Canada. She was often bullied with along with new Asian-Canadian students, made to feel unwelcomed because they were different ethnicities or for their physical appearances. Another barrier was learning the English language; she felt she wasn’t accepted completely until she could speak English properly; however, it was extremely difficult for her to learn English. In elementary school, she tried to reach out to school administrators but that often left the situations unresolved leaving her to feel even more helpless. Now in her final year of secondary school, Fartun looks back and hopes to inspire other young girls who are feeling out of place and bullied by peers that you can become confident in your own identity and you don’t have to change who you are to make other people happy. Sometimes, even having just one friend is better than constantly feeling pressured to keep up with social norms to make crowds of peers happy. Slowly, you will learn to just make yourself happy and stop caring about what others think of you. It takes time and it is a long journey, but a small group of friends and teachers who care can make a huge difference.

Fartun was also the recipient of the DigitaLENS Scholarship Award this year.

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