DIGICOM Learning Film Festival 2018

"Rise and Shine!"

 

By Xochitl Pena, The Desert Sun May 18, 2018

“One thing is clear following the DIGICOM Film Festival on Thursday, there is an abundance of talented young filmmakers across the desert.“

One thing is clear following the DIGICOM Film Festival on Thursday, there is an abundance of talented young filmmakers across the desert.
The Richards Center for the Arts at Palm Springs High School was packed for the annual film festival which showcased some of the best work from K-12 students and teachers across the Coachella Valley.
With a theme of “Rise and Shine,” close to 30 films warmed the heart, made people laugh and take a deep look at race, gender and politics.

“What we’re doing is giving children and young adults the opportunity to express their interests themselves, what they feel politically, what they feel socially, whatever is of concern to them we give them a voice,” said David Vogel, DIGICOM founder, CEO and president. He is also former president of the Walt Disney Motion Pictures Group.

Over the past 10 years DIGICOM has given thousands and thousands of youth a voice, he said. The program has professional filmmakers on staff who work with students directly through after-school programs or train teachers to integrate digital into their curriculum.

“This is the student’s opportunity to share their sad, funny, boring and exciting stories and bring to life all that they’ve learned through digital storytelling,” said Vogel.

While there are several DIGICOM film festivals held at various schools and online, the film festival held Thursday is the primary one that serves as a showcase for all participating schools with awards handed out to all the included filmmakers. The top three filmmakers from a simultaneous film festival also received awards.

The festival screenings were divided into several categories: Circle of Life; Spirit in Motion; Love Letters; Lunch Break; Power of Me; Community & Culture; and the last film, a music video, served to entertain during the festival credits.

The Love Letter section included three heartwarming and poignant films by students who paid tribute, respectively, to their single mother, a deceased “Abuela” and a father who lives several states away.
In “Without Him,” Aubrie Dille, a sixth-grader at James Workman Middle School, shares her story of how living without her father after her parents divorced has weighed on her.
She decided to tell the story of her father as part of a school project in which students were asked to focus on a subject matter that “changed and touched” them.
“I really thought of my dad because I’ve always been like a daddy’s girl and stuff. And I just really thought, he works very hard, every day … and I just thought it was the perfect chance to put him in a movie,” said Aubrie.

The Love Letter section included three heartwarming and poignant films by students who paid tribute, respectively, to their single mother, a deceased “Abuela” and a father who lives several states away.
In “Without Him,” Aubrie Dille, a sixth-grader at James Workman Middle School, shares her story of how living without her father after her parents divorced has weighed on her.
She decided to tell the story of her father as part of a school project in which students were asked to focus on a subject matter that “changed and touched” them.
“I really thought of my dad because I’ve always been like a daddy’s girl and stuff. And I just really thought, he works very hard, every day … and I just thought it was the perfect chance to put him in a movie,” said Aubrie.

The “Power of Me” block of films was filled with powerful stories on race and gender and political ones that focused on DACA and arming teachers with guns — all  meant to create empathy and an understanding of the diverse desert.

“Black is Beautiful” by Jebari Wooten, a prolific filmmaker from Cathedral City High School who has been participating in DIGICOM for many years, shared the beauty of his African-American culture.

That was followed up by an eye-opening film called “What Follows Me,” by Alexis Agbayani from James Workman Middle School, who shed light on discrimination and racism and how it affects him as Asian-American.

Then there was “Real Boy” by Jasmin Delgado from Rancho Mirage High School who identifies as a boy and is shown in the film binding her chest. Jasmin shares the journey of chasing happiness and in the end asks the audience to call her Jay.    

There were also lots of lighthearted films whose only purpose was to make people laugh, and films with clever twists and turns that provided “aha” moments.

One creative film in particular, “Siriously,” by Nancy Blair and Laura Pietragallo from Cathedral City High School, took a modern-day approach to George Orwell’s classic “1984.” In this flick Siri serves as a version of “Big Brother” who begins to offer her own opinions and demands and doesn’t take lightly to being drowned or turned off. And in a cunning turn to escape Siri, the main character, is shown switching to a flip phone.

Having all the student and teacher films shown on the big screen — in the same location where big stars like Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg have participated in Palm Springs International Film Festival screenings and Q & As — is fun for the burgeoning filmmakers.

“That’s a big screen. It’s different than seeing it on your computer. That’s a giant movie screen and part of that is the validation, especially in our valley where so many of them are from lower income families and don’t really have the opportunity to celebrate themselves and their families, it’s great for their families,” Vogel said.

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