The Perfect Storm: Reel Youth and UN Day

UNIS Hanoi celebrated UN Day back on October 7th. (Has it already been a month? How did THAT happen?) As one of only two United Nations schools in the world, it’s pretty easy to figure out that UN Day is a pretty big deal in these parts.

This year’s theme is Rapprochement of Cultures with the goal of

[demonstrating] the benefits of cultural diversity by acknowledging the importance of the constant transfers and exchanges between cultures and the ties forged between them since the dawn of humanity. As cultures encompass not only the arts and humanities, but also lifestyles, different ways of living together, value systems, traditions and beliefs, the protection and promotion of their rich diversity invites us to rise to new challenges at the local, national, regional and international levels.

To help us work with students on the concept of cultural rapprochement, we invited Erica and Mark from Reel Youth to spend 5 weeks with our students in grades 4 – 8. The mission of Reel Youth is to empower student voices to make media about issues that they care about. Our goal was to give students a chance to voice and share their own personal cultural identities and to give others a chance to explore and connect with that identity.

Erica and students filming

In those 5 weeks, Erica and Mark met with each MS homeroom 3 times (about 85 minutes per meeting). In those 4 hours, students wrote and recorded a poem called “Where I’m From” (meeting 1); learned about lighting and angles for filming, shot multiple examples of each, and imported the footage onto their computer (meeting 2); and edited their footage to fit the poem recording, usually with enough time left over to get some great feedback from our creative experts on how to improve the edit (meeting 3), export and submit a finished film. I wasn’t sure if we could get all the students to finish on time (and some still wanted to make more edits at home to improve their work), but by the end of the that last meeting, ALL students had a finished product!

On UN Day, each grade level did different activities centered around the content of their student films. We also arranged for an exhibition in the foyer our new Performing Arts Theatre, showing all 500+ student films that were created on 15 different screens. Students from across the school as well teachers, parents and invited dignitaries had a chance to sample the work that our students spent so much time and effort on.

Mark helping a student edit

Reel Youth also played another huge role at UNIS with some high school students. A group of about 16 students were selected to work with them outside of class time to film and create documentaries centered around two of the major Community Service projects that we do here at UNIS. They spent their weekends going out to the Thuy An orphanage and up to Sin Chai Elementary School in a H’mong village in Sapa to tell the stories of some of these individuals. I’m still working on getting copies of some of those documentaries, but the films were amazing. In the gala premiere that was held to showcase these films, the students talked about this experience as some of the most meaningful learning experiences they had ever taken part in. I’m hoping to convince some of these students to submit their work to one or some of the many student film festivals that will be taking place in early 2012.

For those of you interested in exploring that confluence of film, technology and student empowerment, I cannot recommend Reel Youth enough. Film-making is such an amazing way of leveraging the technology that we put in the hands of our students so that they can create something that is truly personal, creative and meaningful. Erica and Mark showed such great respect for each student and their voice that it was easy for them to connect with them and gain their trust. That, in turn, led to some truly magnificent work by the students!

Below is a the ‘meta-film’ that was made by two visiting filmmakers from the UK about collaboration between Reel Youth and the UNIS Community and Service program. It gives a great glimpse of the work that was done with the two community service projects, the voices and thoughts of the students involved, and the philosophy of Reel Youth.

Image Credits
Erica and Students Hard at Work by Clint Hamada licensed under CC BY NC SA
Mark and the Orange Headphones by Clint Hamada licensed under CC BY NC SA


3 thoughts on “The Perfect Storm: Reel Youth and UN Day

  • November 13, 2011 at 8:07 pm

    Wow! This is awesome. I am speechless. I will share this with students, our CAS director, and our school director.I want to get a hold of these guys for sure. Such great job. I hope this work gets the attention it deserves. Please tell everyone involved that it is great.

  • November 13, 2011 at 9:06 pm

    That was beautiful. What an incredible experience for all involved. Transformational, indeed. It was also nice seeing so many familiar faces. Now I am having a major missing-Vietnam moment.

  • February 2, 2012 at 8:30 am

    Thanks for the props Clint! What a well documented overview of our project. I do have to say, you were instrumental in making it happen, from coordinating equipment, supporting the process, extra hands in the editing classes, to your ongoing dedication to the students films. I can’t wait to hear how they do in the international student film festivals.

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