Monday, December 19, 2011

First place at Plural+ Moldova!

Our film, Casa Parinteasca, took first place at the 2011 Plural+ Moldova National Youth Film Competition!

First Place!

See this Embarkations' post for background on migration in Moldova and our film, which can also be viewed on YouTube here (click the Closed Captioning button in the bottom right of the video player to enable English subtitles).

Plural+ is an international youth film competition run by the International Organization for Migration, but because migration is such a pressing issue here in Moldova, the local country office also runs a national version of the contest.

The film was entirely made by my student film club I run with my partner teacher Olga.  The club's name is "Tinerii Operatori" (Young Camermen), but the kids publicly named our "production unit" Carahasani Studios. The club first started when I mentioned in passing to Olga my intention to post the call for submissions and ask some students if they'd like to participate.

The premier and awards ceremony was held last Friday, at Malldova, Moldova's first (and arguably only) rich-country style mall. (Malldova, Moldova, get it?) The IOM invited all participating teams to the premier ceremony, and even made it possible for teams such as mine to attend by paying for transportation costs.

One thing that seems to transcend Moldovan-American culture is the role of the mall in a teenager's universe, so I knew the event would be a big deal for them.  Still, it's hard to transplant oneself into the place of a rural teenager from a developing country, and even harder to imagine the culture shock they must feel when suddenly dropped right into the center of American consumerism, something only the most elite of the country have access to.  It really hit home for me when Dana, a 9th grader who sat next to me on the bus we rented, squealed at the site of the city.  Then she leaned over, and in a barely restrained whisper told me this was going to be her third time in the city.  Third.  I probably spend more time in the capital in meetings alone during an average month than Dana has spent there her entire life.

We spent a lot of time trying reign in students' expectations ahead of time, saying the cliche types of things that parents say, but that kids always wonder if they really mean.  "It's not about winning.  You've learned so much in this process.  Let's just go and have a good time at the awards ceremony."  I stand by all those statements, but turns out, yeah, adults still want to win.  In fact, watching my students beam after the ceremony, I realize adults probably want the kids to win even more, because winning something yourself doesn't even begin to compare to the feeling of watching your students win something they worked hard for.

Three students (left) giving an interview.
After the awards, our students were the stars of the show.  They took pictures, made friends with other kids, laughed, ate, and even gave 3 interviews (radio, print, and television).  Thankfully, they did not give their dear teachers heart attacks, who had been a bit nervous about chaperoning 24 6th-9th graders from a village around a 4 story mall in the middle of a bustling capital.

As a reward, we took them the the central plaza to see the national Christmas Tree and New Year's decorations.  They'd all seen it on TV, but most of them had never seen it in person.  For those readers who don't grasp Moldovan kids' obsession with taking poze (posed photos), the sheer joy this reward provided cannot be overstated.

Chisinau's National Christmas decorations!

While Plural+ was our initial impetus, once Olga got involved the group became about a lot more than this one contest.  We're already storyboarding our next couple films, a documentary about the village school and a public service announcement about a health topic.  It's incredible how much the kids have learned; in their first attempt, they were able to come up with a sophisticated metaphor where a house personifies the feelings of those left behind in a country that has fallen into disrepair.  Meanwhile, Olga is already planning how to continue Carahasani Studios after I leave.

Celebrating on the bus ride home, (dance party!)
Poze, at Moldova's National Christmas tree.

The Carahasani Studios team (well, most of it; some of them were
running around taking more poze...)

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