Cinequest program teaches schoolkids to use film as a communication tool

The San Jose-based non-profit org Cinequest has just wrapped its first season of a globe-trotting program dubbed Picture the Possibilities, which aims to empowers youth around the world through film.

Middle and high school students in Beijing, L.A., Mexico City, New York City and the Silicon Valley worked on narrative and documentary short films covering issues from obesity to citizenship. Joined by local filmmakers, a team of mentors traveled to help the youth in each city act, operate the camera and take on other production tasks.

However, these technical skills were not the priority, according to Cinequest co-founder and director Halfdan Hussey.

“This is not a program to train filmmakers,” Hussey says. “It’s a movement to teach empowerment of voice and how to utilize film to communicate.”

Hussey had the opportunity to visit all the sites except for Mexico City. His favorite memories involve working with Homeboy Industries, an L.A.-based org dedicated to at-risk youth. The team made a doc about six ex-gang members who had gone through the program.

Each PTP city had a site partner, for example Expo Center in South- Central L.A. Affectionately called “champions,” supporters of the program include Alec Baldwin, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple.

Some of the shorts were screened earlier this month as part of the 22nd annual Cinequest Film Festival, held at various venues in Silicon Valley.

Hussey hopes to expand the Picture Possibilities program to Cambodia and Brazil. He also plans to follow-up with the participating orgs regarding practical application.

“As we find leaders excited about a particular issue, we’ll get those folks doing something to bring a reality to the idea,” Hussey says.

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