Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Brooklyn Teens Tackle Tolerance Through Film

Student-Driven Movie Takes on Issues Facing Local Youth

Press Release from Dance Theater Etc.:

“I already draw attention to myself when I walk down the street – I’m black.” A couple students laughed; others followed up with questions, animated. Five teens sat around a table, debating whether or not it was baggy jeans and hoodies that garnered the unwanted attention the speaker sometimes sensed from policemen and purse-clutchers, and sharing their own experiences growing up in Brooklyn.
This youth writer’s group- with students originally hailing from East New York, Red Hook, Bed-Stuy, & even Haiti- laid the foundation for a new film from independent filmmaker Trac Minh Vu (Letters to Thien) being created now in a series of Saturday morning workshops by over thirty Brooklyn teenagers.
Fresh off an Oscar season that saw the powerful melodrama Precious shedding light onto a young woman’s life in Harlem’s Section 8 housing and Sandra Bullock’s starring turn as the near-savior to an “at-risk youth,” these students felt they could say something- perhaps not as sensational, they acknowledged, but potentially more authentic- about what it means to grow up in the kind of places not featured on MTV’s (unreal) reality teen shows.

With students traveling from all corners of Brooklyn- some braving almost two hours of Saturday morning buses and subways to make it down to Red Hook- it’s clear there’s more to these young people than the “inner-city grit” and street culture so often latched onto by mainstream media, eager to categorize.

If there is one constant, in fact, in how these teens ask to be viewed, it is their rejection of labels. Their portrayal of characters is nothing if not nuanced- the film they envision anything but didactic.

Enabled in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, the “Scene to Screen Project” is part of Dance Theatre Etcetera’s “Tolerance through the Arts Initiative.” Alongside the production of the film, which will employ a professional crew, the producers will create a study guide intended to incite conversation in schools about teen-to-teen interactions and the role each individual can play in creating a more just, tolerant world.

Students will continue to develop the film in the recently-begun acting workshops, with production scheduled for mid-May. To get a feel for where this project is headed, check out the movie that came out of the 2008 program it's based on.

Produced by Dance Theater Etcetera.

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