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Review for Women in Film & Video Inc, Washington, DC, USA

Rating: 5 stars  

When I was a child I saw something that would change my life forever. I
didn’t know it at the time of course. Disney’s Secrets of Life was a time
lapse film about plants growing. I can still see the apple blossom opening
up in my mind’s eye.
A number of years ago I had the great pleasure of organizing and moderating
the The Kids World Film Festival for Women in Film & Video DC. Generally,
it was organized by committee but that year it fell under the radar until it
was very late in the game. I had served on the committee for a number of
years so I volunteered to take over on the condition that I could call the
shots. I wanted to streamline the process to stay on schedule. The Kids
World Film Festival was founded in 2004 by then president Deborah
Redmond and has been a WIFV outreach program for DC area 5th grade
students ever since.
I solicited films from all over the world and went to work finding the perfect
combination. I selected 4 films. WIFV had the budget to invite the
selected international filmmakers to DC to participate in the festival. With
films selected and filmmakers scheduled to attend, we started the school
In the weeks before the event, teams of WIFV members went to selected
classrooms of students who were going to attend to introduce them to the
concept of media literacy. We wanted the students to be critical, savvy
media consumers. Part of this classroom presentation was showing them
a BBC hoax film screened originally on April Fools Day in 1957. It was
about the spaghetti harvest in Switzerland. (You can still see the clip on
YouTube.) A lively conversation ensued and the students were able to see
how effectively the filmmakers had used a serious, news reel style to tell a
fanciful story.
After weeks of work, the stage was set. Participating schools in
Washington, DC, Virginia and Maryland bussed fifth grade students to the
George Washington University auditorium for the film festival. The center
piece film was Abbie Down East by director Ellen-Alinda Verhoeff, Dutch
filmmaker living in NYC. It’s a great story for kids because the heroine is a
young girl who saves her family and ships at sea by keeping the lights on
in the lighthouse during a bad storm and her father’s absence . There were
a number of other shorts and I am heartbroken I can’t remember them all.
One of the films was by an African filmmaker about children in Africa
collecting termites to eat. The films were screened to a rapt audience.
They were all a great hit.
Then the filmmakers came on stage and talked to the students about their
films and their lives. The kids were enthralled. It was so great to see kids
lined up to ask questions and really become engaged in a dialogue the
filmmakers. The filmmakers participation was the icing on the cake. Ellen-
Alinda Verhoeff was there as well as the African filmmaker. He worked in
LA and had taken the red-eye to participate in our event and had to take it
back that night because of his work schedule. I was very grateful he was
willing to fly overnight two nights in a row to join us. They were both
charming and seemed to enjoy the event and the kids as much as I did.
As I walked away from the GW campus that afternoon, I was still on Cloud
Nine. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that at least a few filmmakers
were made that day. At the very least we had introduced international
cinema to students eager to expand their horizons. They got to see that
real people made the films and that perhaps they could too.
It was a different world for 5th grade students than it
is today. Not the same internet, not the same YouTube, no easy uncensored access to media.
Things are very different today but the urgency to help students explore
media literacy and a thirst for international film experiences may still be as
relevant now.
Just as my experience as a child seeing filmmaking that spoke directly to
me was pivotal for me, I knew that the Kids World Film Festival had truly
broadening the perspective of the students who attended and was and still
is a valuable asset to the community. I am very grateful to WIFV for
providing me the opportunity to play a role in the event.

Role:  Volunteer