Aspiring teen filmmakers who spent the summer learning the art of documentary film with Hofstra professors and mentors returned to campus recently for the premiere of their completed films.
All ten films by the students, participants in the Documenting Diversity film program, were screened during a celebration last Friday in Breslin Hall that included a red-carpet entrance. The young filmmakers and their families were joined by Lawrence Herbert School of Communication Dean Evan Cornog and members of the film faculty including program directors Aashish Kumar and Bill Jennings, who both noted that the participants performed well in the rigorous college-level program.
Over five weeks, the students, who come from high schools all over New York City and Long Island, partnered up to create films about each other that highlight their unique ethnic and social backgrounds. They spent time in each other’s homes and neighborhoods and interviewed family members and friends, while being mentored in storytelling and filming techniques by professors and students from Hofstra’s undergraduate and graduate film programs. Activities also included a walking tour of the ethnically diverse neighborhood of Jackson Heights.
Friends Academy senior Caitlin Rubin’s film about Kevin Hernandez Amador, a June graduate of Hempstead High School, touched on his love of art and the pain of leaving his mother behind in Mexico as a young boy because she didn’t have the legal papers to enter the United States. He has seen her only six times since. “I miss you,” he tells her during their first-ever video chat in Caitlin’s film. “I miss you too, very much,” she replies.
“Learning about Kevin’s life and sharing my own — I’m not going to lie — it was a little awkward at first! I’ve never been asked questions like that or had people that were interested in the answers,” said Caitlin. “Kevin hasn’t seen his family in years, and it definitely changed my perspective on things. I saw how strong he had to be all the time and it made me feel lucky to have my own family so close.” Kevin’s reaction to her film? “I’m a shy person, but she put me out there. It’s a good film, and I think it will change the way people think about me,” he said.
Indrani Kopal, a Fulbright Scholar and MFA student from Malaysia, mentored seniors Zoey Peck of Roslyn High School and Kelvin Ramos of Flushing International High School. “Watching their lives unfold in front of me, it just changed me,” she says. “As they got to know each other, it was amazing to see them discover a different way of life and tell it on film.” Kopal, whose Hofstra graduate film project “Living Jazz with Bill Saxton” was an official selection of the 2013 Langston Hughes African-American Film Festival, hopes to create a similar program when she returns to Malaysia. “It’s really transformative.”
All the films can be viewed on the Documenting Diversity website in a few weeks. The program, which just completed its seventh year, is funded by The Rosenthal Family Foundation, a charitable organization established by Hofstra alumni Monica Horan Rosenthal and Phil Rosenthal, creator and executive producer of the award-winning television series “Everybody Loves Raymond.”