Category: Our Films

Home Is Where You Find It

Two renowned filmmakers, Chris Zalla (2007 Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner) and Neal Baer (Executive Producer of Law & Order: SVU), went to Maputo, Mozambique in August 2007, to help a child who had lost both parents to AIDS make a film about his life. With Chris and Neal, 16-year-old Alcides Soares learned the art of filmmaking and was able to tell his story as a boy living alone in the world. Alcides’ life reflects that of an entire generation of Mozambican children — over 500,000 of them having lost their parents to AIDS.

Chris and Neal spent two weeks teaching Alcides the basics of filmmaking – how to use the camera, a Canon XHA1, and the sound equipment as well as techniques for conducting interviews, shooting scenes and computer editing with Final Cut Pro. The end result is a 27-minute documentary film that reveals the courage of a boy whose faith and ingenuity have enabled him to pull together a home and a sense of family.

BYkids is indebted to the support that has enabled Neal, Chris and Alcides to fulfill the telling of Alcides’ inspiring story through film. The organizations Reencontro (in Mozambique) and Venice Arts/The House is Small (in California), which help kids in document their lives through still photography, introduced Neal and Chris to Alcides and provided invaluable resources. Neal and the Law & Order: SVU writers and stars provided the camera, sound and computer equipment for the making of his film.

Leaving for Mozambique in August 2007, Chris observed, “One of the greatest things about film is that it speaks the universal language of human emotions that transcend cultural boundaries. Though the clamor of our busy world will no doubt drone on we can help add a child’s voice to that din, and just maybe, open up a new conversation. And we can listen.”

You can read more about Neal and Chris’s time in Mozambique with Alcides…
Notes from the Field »

Or watch videos related to the film…
Trailer 1 »
Film Excerpt »
Interviews »

Find out where the film is screening…
Screening Schedule »

My Country Is Tibet

The King of Tibet, living in exile in Dharamsala in Northern India, is the 16-year-old Namgyal Wangchuk Trichen Lhagyari. As the only recognized descendent of the first Dharma King of Tibet (617-698 AD), Namgyal carries the unique responsibility of representing Tibet’s unbroken history and heritage. Yet, as a teenager, he also represents a new generation of young Tibetans who are caught today between the peaceful traditions of Tibetan Buddhism and a desperate desire to fight for the freedom of their people. These young Tibetans speak about the slow obliteration of their very identity – their livelihoods, their right to choose where they live, their ability to be educated in their languages – and the stark choice they face of either remaining in Tibetan areas under these constraints or seeking to flee to other countries.

BYkids film mentor Dirk Simon, whose film Between the Lines has received world-wide recognition, worked with Namgyal during spring 2008 to help him tell his emblematic story through film. In addition to diving into the technical aspects of filming, which the young king learned quickly, Dirk and Namgyal looked closely at how to shape narrative story telling through image. Namgyal demonstrated a quick mastery of the craft of filmmaking, and conducted his interviews and narrated his footage in both Tibetan and English. He has narrated the film in English and the film is in final production.

Dirk actually met Namgyal in Dharamsala four years earlier at the time of the young boy’s coronation ceremony, presided by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, in June 2004. The previous Dharma King of Tibet, Namgyal’s father, had died just a year earlier. Namgyal’s father had been incarcerated by the Chinese authorities for 20 years and struggled for the survival of his lineage.

Dirk describes the young king as carrying the vision of two worlds: the one-thousand-year-old heritage of Tibet’s Dharma Kings and the current struggle of a people striving to survive under repression, abuse and ethnic genocide. “With his devotion to the principles of Tibetan Buddhism, his kindness and modesty, he touches the heart of everyone who meets him. Now we are back here to help him tell his story.”

Read words from the King of Tibet…
Director’s Statement »

Read more about Dirk and Namgyal working on the film in India…
Notes from the Field »

Or watch a preview of the film…
Trailer »

Fire in Our Hearts

Jayshree Janu Kharpade of India was taken out of school at 7 years old so that she could raise her four younger brothers and contribute to her parents’ labor at a brick kiln site. Exceptionally bright and motivated, she pleaded for years with her parents to let her return to her studies. They finally agreed, and she soon rose to the top of her school. Now aged 16, she illuminates the immense social and economic potential of educating girls in the developing world.

Jayshree’s film mentor is the renowned Joyce Chopra, a pioneer of documentary cinema whose numerous titles include That Our Children Will Not Die, about primary health care in Nigeria, and the autobiographical Joyce at 34, which is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art. Joyce, and a second camerawoman, Cat Papadimitriou, went to India in January 2011.

Read about Joyces’s time in India with Jayshree in her Notes from the Field »
Watch the trailer »

Displaced But Not Defeated

María Ceballos Paz, a 16-year-old Colombian girl, has been living in displacement for the past nine years as a result of Colombia’s civil war. Decades of fighting between the army, paramilitary, guerrilla groups and drug cartels has forced approximately 4 million Colombians from their homes, creating the largest internally displaced population in the world.

After her father was killed by guerrillas, María and her family fled their farm. Now living in the slums of Cali, María shows us her family, friends and community as they rebuild their lives.

María directed, filmed and narrated this award-winning documentary that puts a human face on the statistics of displacement. Her story is like those of millions of people facing similar upheaval, not only in Colombia, but in other war-torn countries around the world.

Susan Hoenig is María’s BYkids Film Mentor. Among Hollywood’s top TV producers, Susan has produced shows for Discovery, National Geographic, Fox, ABC, NBC and CBS. She received an Emmy nomination for Undercover Boss.

Read about Susan’s time in Colombia with María in her Notes from the Field »

Poet Against Prejudice

Faiza Almontaser is a 17-year old senior attending the Brooklyn International High School. In 2006 Faiza immigrated with her family to Brooklyn, NY from a small farming town in Yemen. Raised as a religious Muslim, she often struggles to reconcile her cultural background with the realities she meets as a high school student in one of New York City’s most socially dynamic neighborhoods.

At age 10, Faiza enrolled in the sixth grade as the only Muslim in her school. She had high hopes for her new education, but was soon discouraged by her minimal understanding of English and the anti-Islamic fervor she encountered among her classmates. Without the knowledge of language to defend herself, Faiza spent her first few months suffering in silence.

Determined to find her voice, she spent six months learning enough English to begin speaking out against the discrimination faced by Muslims in her community. Now in high school she works as a peer trainer with the Anti-Defamation League, teaching her classmates the dangers and repercussions of racism. Faiza also works to combat her struggle with the written word; through poems and essays she challenges common misconceptions of Islamic culture, and expresses her visions for change and equality.

Under the mentorship of the award-winning filmmaker Albert Maysles, Faiza will offer a strong voice to the quieted strife of immigrant children throughout the United States. As the first American BYkids youth filmmaker, her personal narrative takes this film to the heart of issues that are cleaving social integration and international understanding in a post 9/11 world.

Among the world’s pre-eminent documentary filmmakers and the dean of American documentary filmmaking, Albert is recognized as the pioneer of “direct cinema,” the distinctly American version of French “cinema verité.” His films include Salesman, Gimme Shelter, Grey Gardens and Oscar-nominated LaLee’s Kin: The Legacy of Cotton.

Read about Albert’s first meeting with Faiza in these Notes from the Field »