Student documentary films appeal to sense of humanity

by | Apr 13, 2017 | A&E, Headlines

Brett McGarry
A&E Reporter

Documentaries have the capacity to compel and inspire us by showing the truths of our world that often exists behind a very thin veil. Around the corner, down the street or half way around the world, a reality exists that could be stranger than fiction or appeal to our sense of humanity. This is what a good documentary can do and this is what Humber film students have been aspiring to capture.

This year the Bachelor of Arts Film and Media students will have 10 short documentaries playing at the Humber Documentary showcase in Etobicoke.

The lineup of docs features a diverse range of subject material. Upcycle explores the work of bicycle pirates starting their own DIY bike repair shop. Life in a Box exposes the unnatural and often inhuman conditions that animals are kept in for human entertainment in zoos. Not Just a Pretty Face examines cosplay culture, community and taboos and the seven other works display the wide berth of material covered in this year’s showcase.

Students have been planning these projects for almost a year with the pitching process starting in the fall semester and after going through a selection process immediately began work getting in contact with subjects and beginning the production process.

One of the largest hurdles for Upcycle producer Suzy Queen was communicating and coordinating with her subjects. Her role entailed sorting out such logistical challenges.

“The bike pirates were completely DIY. They had no cellphone and telephone and the only internet they used was spotty Wi-Fi they borrowed from a neighboring cafe. All the money they made went towards biking and bike parts,” said Queen

Coordinating unscripted subjects was a learning experience for everyone in producing a documentary. Director of Departed, about crisis in Venezuela, Isabella Salinas also found the process of working with these subjects difficult but rewarding.

“Directing is a challenge for me so it was a different kind of production. You had to deal with things on the go and subjects can be difficult subjects. We were used to having scripts and sometimes things would go according to plan, but it all made me realize I really liked pre-production,” said Salinas.

The challenges often bore many kinds of rewards. Being able to explore subject matter that was close to the heart of the crews was an important aspect of making these films.

“I feel like I might have done things differently if I could do it again, but I feel good about the film. It was very poetic. Since it was not about me it allowed the people who do not normally have a voice to have a voice for their issues. I just want people to be aware and talk about the issues the documentary raised,” said Salinas.

For Megan Harrison, animal lover, activist and director of Life in a Box, making this piece come together was deeply an extension of herself.

“I think the ultimate goal is to have people really think about the welfare of animals and all the flaws of the archaic zoo system,” said Harrison.

The documentary showcase itself will allow the students to share material they are passionate about with a larger audience but also showcase the application of their hard won skills gained over the years in the program.

“It’s really a chance for exposure for us. We’ve all worked really hard and this is an important point in our individual careers. We’ll have something to be proud of for our portfolios,” said Queen.

The 10 documentaries will premiere April 21 at the Assembly Hall located at 1 Colonel Samuel Smith Park Drive, adjacent Humber Lakeshore campus in Etobicoke. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and screenings start at 7 p.m.