Tragedy intensifies BAFTA/LA's drive to help local youth

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BAFTA inner-city screenings carry on
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A human tragedy last winter seems only to have given BAFTA/LA inner-city screening series founder Katy Haber more motivation to project movies and meaningful messages to the community.

Powered by continued support from BAFTA/LA members, the county and city of Los Angeles, Warner Brothers and the film community at large, the 5-year-old program, launched at Helen Keller Park, screened nine movies in 30 Los Angeles parks this summer.

Haber says that the screening series still carries the memory of Marquise Ortiz, 19, an avid regular at the Helen Keller screenings, who was killed in a drive-by shooting while visiting family in January.

“Marquise had hope and a future,” adds Joe Mendoza, deputy director of L.A. County Parks and Recreation. “I don’t think his passing had a negative impact (on the kids who attend the screenings). I think it’s more of an eye-opening experience, to become aware of the importance of time and setting goals and striving.”

Last month, Haber and Mendoza screened “The Least Among You,” a story about the 1965 Watts Riots, in Ted Watkins Park in the heart of Watts in L.A.

Two actors from the film, Cedric Sanders and Siena Goines, talked shop with the audience. In September, “The Space Between,” a 9/11 story, played at Helen Keller with BAFTA member Phillip Rhys, who acts in the film, director Travis Fine and child actor Anthony Keyvan in the post-show Q&A.

Haber, who produced “Blade Runner,” and Paul Heller, of BAFTA’s educational community outreach committee, regularly offer screenings and workshops to film students at George Washington Prep, where Ortiz began high school. The school’s film instructor, Darryl McCane, says BAFTA/LA-sponsored events have included a private screening of “Avatar” preceded by a how-to special-effects seminar with the film’s VFX motion capture producer James Knight, also in BAFTA.

“We went to George Washington (four years ago) because the majority of the kids from Helen Keller Park are from the school,” Haber says. “So many kids became interested in film classes after Knight’s workshop.”

A new community center with screening capability is currently being planned for Helen Keller Park — Warner Brothers has contributed $10,000 for the projector. A prominent plaque will honor Ortiz.

“I would call it a spin- off,” Haber says of the momentum, the extra screening locations and the ever-increasing volunteer participation. “Another spinoff is that BAFTA/LA now gives a scholarship to a student at Inner-City Filmmakers (school). Maybe Marquise would have been the happy recipient of such a scholarship. We’ll never know.”

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