By Michael Klam
No other medium captures the human condition and the realities of a complex world like documentary films. They bring us face to face with the people, places and events that define culture and society at every level. They track the footsteps of greatness and reveal tragedies large and small. They exalt the heroes and expose the villains living next door.
With technology and information at their fingertips, imagine what students can learn and eventually teach through documentary film.
The Teen Producers Project (TPP) has been training local youth to show and tell the stories that you don’t necessarily find in the mainstream media.
“Our goal is to connect kids to their communities,” says Kate Trumbull, Education Coordinator for Media Arts Center San Diego (MACSD), which runs TPP and produces the annual San Diego Latino Film Festival.
Trumbull says the goal of TPP is to help students become leaders by making inter-generational ties connecting past to present and ensuring their communities’ cultural futures. Students document a broad range of subjects, from immigration to preserving local history through the arts.
The teen producers come from Barrio Logan, Downtown, Golden Hill, North Park and El Cajon. This year, with their Media Arts Instructors, teen filmmakers interviewed and researched local leaders Roger Cazares, Victor Ochoa, Father Richard Brown and Herminia Acosta Enrique (Techitzin).
They will present their short films as part of The Voices of Change project in the third floor auditorium of the Central Public Library on Wednesday, June 27 at 6:30 p.m. The teen producers and the subjects of the films will be on hand for Q&A following the screening.
“Documentary is about spreading awareness,” says young filmmaker Ray Grizzle. He worked with a team of students to document the life of activist Herminia Acosta Enrique, who teaches dance, culture and history as part of her commitment to cultural heritage. Enrique founded Ballet Folklorico en Aztlan and co-founded San Diego’s Centro Cultural de la Raza.
She is an inspiration to Grizzle: “I guess I learned that one person can change a lot. It sounds cliché, but if you want to be heard, you can be heard. If you work hard enough, you do not need a lot of money or power,” he says.
Filmmaker Argenis Herrera worked with his team to film Chicano artist Victor Ochoa. According to Trumbull, Herrera stumbled into the program seeking a pretty girl, but has since become serious about the genre.
Herrera filmed Ochoa at a graffiti battleground, working with artists on more than 400 feet of wall space.
“My obligation is to at least try to express to the new generations what the work has been over the last 40 years,” says Ochoa, who teaches history and culture through art.
“The students use (documentary film) as a learning process for them to formulate questions and answer their own curiosities. They see artwork and try to understand it, and then interview the artist,” he says.
Teen producer Joe Grizzle agrees, “It kind of opened my eyes to what people have experienced in the past.” He co-produced the Enrique documentary on the same team with his brother, Ray.
Along with Ochoa’s film, Pintando la Comunidad, three other teen-produced short films will be screened on June 27. The premiere of Herminia Enrique, Defendiendo Mi Cultura, covers her life of giving back to the community.
Roger Cazares: Justice, Passion, & Community explores Cazares’ community activism as former president and CEO of MAAC Project, a local social service agency. “I wanted to be involved in making a change in the community and improving the condition of the communities I grew up in. I had a passion for justice, something that I learned from my parents,” he says.
El Padrecito del Barrio documents Father Richard Brown’s dedication and love for the people and spaces of Barrio Logan. “If there’s anything I’d like people to remember me by, it is that there’s a priest for 37 years called ‘El Padre del Barrio,’ who loved them and their families. They were my family. My legacy is love,” says Father Brown.
Much like the life work of their subjects, TTP is hard, but rewarding work for the teenagers. “It’s quite fast-paced,” says Trumbull. “From the get-go they are filming and adjusting exposure, checking sound…” she says. “They often come in nervous, but you see them becoming a team, eight to 15 kids, and they become more confident.”
In 2006, TPP was awarded $218,000 in grants, including $150,000 “to create a strategic plan for the program and strengthen TPP for future generations” and $50,000 from the Community Technology Foundation of California for the Barrio Logan Voices of Change one-year project. This bodes well for TPP and up-and-coming filmmakers.
“This is something I want to pursue as a career,” says Joe Grizzle. “It’s so much fun. If I could make a living, it would be the best job that would suit me.”
To find out more information about the project and MACSD, visit www.mediaartscenter.org. And don’t miss the final screening event of Voices of Change in the Central Public Library on Wednesday, June 27 at 6:30 p.m. Q&A with the teen producers and community leaders will follow the documentaries. Contact Kate Trumbull for more information: (619) 230-1938.