Last Saturday my children and I watched the latest wave of locally made short films. All the entries in school category of the annual Kula Film Awards were broadcast on television and as a film-maker of sorts and a parent to budding filmmakers, I gathered the children to view and reflect on the 19 productions by our secondary schools.
As someone who once won an international award with a 90-second short film shot with a basic camcorder, I am an ardent supporter of locally produced films, especially those with strong messages. While the secondary school category films were amateur productions (with the exception of the post-production provided by the local production houses), I could see much promise in the work of the young men and women who made the short films. With phones now equipped with video recording facilities and simple video editing software available, it is becoming easier for our youth to use the medium of video to express themselves. It is something my nearly 8-year old son is doing.
A number of the films entered in the schools’ category have a thriller or horror theme. While the general plot may be not original, I found the fact that the student were willing to experiment with stories that require creative filming and editing to be quite encouraging.
However, I often wonder what will happen post-Kula Film Awards. Perhaps local television stations, Film Fiji and the Fiji Media Industry Development Authority would be interested in providing internships, sponsorship or even simply airtime for budding video/tv/film-makers to showcase their craft. Fiji National University film/tv production students as well as film-makers from the University of the South Pacific also entered the Kula Film Awards, in the open category.
Later during a much-deferred visit to the barbershop, we continued viewing the Kula Film entries on the small television provided by the barber for waiting customers. Our little family discussion and comments on the films drew the attention of the other customers, who also began to watch. Their reactions to what they saw, was evidence of the impact the stories of our youth had.
Rape in both urban and rural communities, gang-rape, defilement, abduction, pornography, teen prostitution, child abuse, child neglect, child labour, teen suicide, bullying, lack of self-worth, peer pressure and domestic violence feature prominently in the 19 high-school produced films. The themes and issues raised by the young filmmakers are taken right out of our local news headlines. The difference is, that in these short films, the statistics and headlines have a face, a voice and a story.
Films about a girl abducted and gang raped after being stalked by social media; a brother coerced through peer-pressure to join in a gang rape of a girl he later discovers to be his sister; young women forced by circumstance or the lure of easy money to engage in prostitution; and the deception, manipulation and abuse of children and youth at the hands of in positions of trust, responsibility and guardianship are not only thought provoking, they are a commentary on the moral bankruptcy of Fijian society today.
The dramatisation of these stories and those of teen suicide; the hardship faced single-parents; mothers who have to raise children, manage families, and earn a living; the struggle of a young woman for self and social acceptance in world where beauty has become skin-deep; and the increasing gap between the haves and the have-nots seem not just to be an attempt to score points with judges, but, with the prevalence and commonality of such themes throughout the range of entries, seem more to be the cry of our young people against the world they seem to be on the verge of inheriting.
Yet in the midst of these stories of hurt and are stories of hope. In the darkness is a ray of light, a word of peace amid the violence. These are stories of the empowerment of non-hearing people; of second chances for those who escape the street; of lessons learned and untold stories finally being told.
The youth of today are sending a strong message to those charged with the guardianship of the family, the community and society. It is a call to open our eyes and ears. To realise that suffering of others, could very easily be the suffering of their own.
The young filmmakers are also sending a message to their peers. It is a message that it is no longer about the change that is going to come or needs to come. It is a challenge for them to be the change they wish to see. It is a message to take heart, have courage and to transform that which is negative into something positive.
Perhaps these films need to be broadcast on prime time so the whole family, the larger portion of the community can watch, learn, reflect and respond.
“Simplicity, Serenity, Spontaneity.”