By Henry Mei ‘18
“Can’t Say a Word” was a finalist of two prestigious film competitions; the Tribeca Film Festival and the All American High School Film Festival.
As a result, the short experimental film about social anxiety produced by Samantha Castro ’16, Kayla Morales ’17, Asra Najeeb ’17, and Henry Mei ’18 was screened at the festivals with the filmmakers in attendance.
They attended the TFF at Bow Tie Chelsea Cinemas in Manhattan on April 21. They walked a red carpet, watched the other finalist films and listened eagerly to the distribution of the three awards for the three film categories presented; the best documentary, experimental, and narrative.
“Being at the film festival is surreal because it’s like ‘Wow, am I actually here?” said Samantha Castro ’16. “It makes you feel like you’re special in a way because your film got picked out of the many submissions.”
They attended two parts of the AAHSFF; the screening of their film at the AMC Theaters in Times Square on October 8 and the awards night at the Kings Theatre in Brooklyn on October 9. On the first day, they walked a red carpet and saw a selection of films including their own. On the second day, they walked a blue carpet and sat for the four hour long awards show with more than 20 categories. In comparison to the TFF which is a competition for NYC high school filmmakers, the AAHSFF is a national competition for high school filmmakers.
Kayla Morales ’17 said that being at the festival makes her feel accomplished even though their film didn’t win any awards, she said, “Seeing my film on the screen is the biggest accomplishment of my life and being around filmmakers just like me is an honor.”
In their Advanced Media class, they were assigned a semester-long group project where they can make a film about anything they want, so they chose social anxiety as their topic.
Castro said the group saw making the film as a fun assignment, so they chose a topic that people can relate to and in turn, hoped they will understand the issue better and be more sympathetic.
The film was able to visually illustrate what it’s like to have social anxiety and enables one view the issue with a clearer perspective.
“I feel that despite its brevity, the film is very powerful, and speaks to something universal in all of us,” said Ms. Wendy Menard, a math teacher. “It leaves me thinking, as a teacher, wondering whether any of my students are suffering-is there a way I could be helping them?”
The film showed a variety of skills that demonstrate the filmmakers’ understanding of the language of film which made the message stand out.
Ms. Elizabeth Bouiss, the media teacher, said, “The shots the students chose convey the various feelings of the narrative, demonstrating a grasp of cinematic language and depth. Their choice of audio adds to the universality of the film.”
The filmmakers credited the success of their work to being part of the Media Program and their mentor, Ms. Bouiss. The Media Program is a three-year track for Humanities students interested in continuing media after taking Video Production.
“Being part of the Media Program sparked my interest for film and is the reason why I want to pursue a career in the filmmaking industry”, said Castro. “Ms. Bouiss believed in me and taught me the necessary skills.”
Morales said she learned more advanced techniques in the Media Program and Ms. Bouiss made film into a passion and hobby for her.
“It is always encouraging to see students take away what they learn in school and make something amazing happen,” said Ms. Judith Ryan, an English teacher, who saw the film at one of the festivals.