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The SOCDOCS Film Festival – May 23, 2014

I can make a difference. So can you. So can we all make a difference, change an attitude, change the world. The sports gear companies and the soft drink manufacturers know we can. That’s why they encourage us to just do it and occasionally remind us that life begins here. However, these feel-good messages may ultimately cause us to question not their messages but their motives, in much the same way that we use our “me-phones” as vehicles, or purveyors of digital interaction: long text message from me, a short tweet to me, or an instagram visual moment about me. Vanity aside, there is no harm in celebrating oneself, but it does beg the question of why our addictive social networking cannot harness the real power of technology to raise social awareness, to make a statement, sound an alarm, or offer a solution to a social justice issue. A simple and accessible way of response to this rhetorical inconvenient truth, if you will, is to offer young people the opportunity to use their power, their creative spirit to address the issues of the real world through their familiarity with music, animation, and visual imagery, all neatly bundled into a social justice video with an attitude, which really brings us to the purpose of SOCDOCS. In its 2014 edition, of the Film Festival was hosted once again at the Stratford Campus of University of Waterloo. SDFF, as a video competition and a symposium of workshops with mentor-specialists in video editing, lighting FX, film history, and a music if film seminar.  In keeping with its mandate, SDFF provided the creative venue for young filmmakers from Southwestern Ontario and the reason to celebrate the achievements of other young filmmakers who use their digital artistry to promote equality, democracy, and solidarity for a just, peaceful and compassionate society.. They were reminded by keynote speaker and documentarian Andrew Watson of Stratford, that the most important ingredient of a social documentary is the story, and that is exactly what St. Paul Secondary School of Mississauga did in their award-winning doc, everyONE The students tell the inspirational story of an ordinary man doing an extraordinary thing: saving lives. At the same time, they recognized the message embedded in the best short documentary, Teen Depression, through an art-and-narration story all to common in the daily lives of many young people: “I don’t want it to be sad and depressing. I want it to be a wake-up call, to wrench your gut enough to want to do something” (Josh Green). To a certain degree, the success of SOCDOCS must be measured not only by the number in attendance or the prizes that were won, but also by the extent to which the workshop mentors inspired the students to continue being creative artists committed to dealing with some serious topics about life and making statements that really matter to the world – that is, using digital technology “to make a difference.”

 

What some of the students had to say:

I liked the audio/video workshop because it was interesting throughout, and I learned just how much the soundtrack affects the scene, by using music to change the mood, first wonder, then sinister/distressed, then spiraling out of control.

I enjoyed the NFB workshop because it was enlightening and made you think, it also showcased different animation techniques that are used, which I thought was pretty cool.

My favourite workshop was the video editing one, because they did quick introductions and we jumped right into the activity, I got given footage, a time limit, video length and music samples, and went to work! Awesome.

The presentation [on Lighting Effects] is a fascinating exploration of the work done by Midnite Hour  productions. It focused on the media arts side of lighting. And the various new and emerging technologies that can be utilized to create some cool effects. Very glad to see them back again.

The presenter [on Audio] did an awesome job going through the history of sounds in movies. He kept the presentation on track, and made the subject interesting to explore. I loved the use of examples during the presentation. He highlighted the importance of sound within films, and how sound is used to enhance the film. He did an awesome job at highlighting how the music in a scene can change the feel of a scene.

[The NFB workshop] was a neat presentation about the documentary scene in Canada today. I ended up discovering a couple of documentaries I desired to watch, such as “My Prarie Home” a documentary about a transgendered gender neutral person, and their life as an indie singer. The presenter also explored the history of filmmaking in Canada, and the history of the NFB. It was an interesting presentation on documentaries in Canada.

Among the the many seminars I have attended [the last couple of years], very few have been quite as entertaining and informative as those at SOCDOCs. In particular, the music in film seminar was of the few seminars in my life where I did not see someone taking a nap. Along with the history of music-in-film, sound foley, and music and the mind, the festival was ripe with insight into the film world, and subsequently, inspired students.

And some of the teacher/chaperones said:

Thank you so much for Friday. All of my students had a fantastic time. They buzz about it on the way back home was non-stop … [and] thank you for the [adjudicator’s] notation about the documentary. I will share it with all the students today.

I had an awesome day and I’ve been recommending the festival to other teachers for next year.  The socdoc ties in nicely with our [curriculum] because we require them to create a  5 min. doc. connected to their major research topic.  Next year we’ll try to have some of those for the socdoc festival.

Thanks so much for including me in the SocDocs festival last week. I had a great time with the kids, and was humbled by the opportunity to be able to work with them for the day.

SocDocs is fantastic and the students really enjoyed the day …

Congratulations on another successful festival.

Thanks John – it was a good day

 

The press said:

The Beacon Herald Review

The Stratford Gazette