• SOCDOCS Film Festival

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 responding 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 the 2015 edition,  the Film Festival was again hosted at the Stratford Campus of University of Waterloo. SDFF 2015 was not only the culmination of our annual video competition but also a lively symposium of seminars and workshops led by mentor-specialists in sound-scaping, music videos, film production, 3D animation and movie poster design.  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 challenged by keynote speaker and indie filmmaker Nadim Fataid of Toronto, to remember that the most important ingredient of a social documentary is “going to the source”, and in 2015, that is exactly what St. Anne’s CSS student Courtney Conway and her colleagues did in producing their award-winning doc, Fighting Stigma, Building Power This documentary explores a social issue that concerns 21st Century teens and adults alike: the crisis in mental health.

Courtney Conway, a Grade 12 student at St. Anne’s Catholic Secondary School in Clinton, said she and her fellow filmmakers wanted to change people’s perception of mental illness with their film Fighting Stigma, Building Power. It was the first place winner at this year’s festival. The poignant video, which mixes dramatized scenes with expert interviews, interspersed with some sobering statistics about mental illness, gave the filmmakers a new perspective on the issue, suggested Conway. She learned that professionals are only part of the solution when it comes to helping people who suffer from things like depression, obsessive compulsive disorder or schizophrenia, she noted. “As a community, we have to all work together,” said Conway, “and show them they’re not alone.”1

Adjudicator Brian Coulton, a producer with CBC Radio’s Q program, had high praise for all of the filmmakers and their work. “The latest Festival entries take risks in how they tell stories, embrace new technology in construction and presentation, leave classroom (and even country) borders, and push the traditional definition of social justice itself,” he wrote. “It’s exciting to see such an increase in quality, attention to detail and creativity in this competition year after year.”2

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.” (Brian Coulton, adjudicator)

1, 2 The Beacon Herald (Mike Beitz, May 30, 2015)


What Monica (a grade 12 student from Mitchell, Ontario) had to say about SOCDOCS 2015:

I attended the music video and film production workshops, and found they were really entertaining and fun to be at. In the music video workshop we started with posters with music lyrics on them so that we could make a lyric video with everyone in it. We got to see the editing process that goes into making a music video.

The next session I attended was the film production workshop in which we were shown the process of creating the perfect type of lighting for an interview and the editing process of sound for a video game. Then, we were asked to take two videos and edit them together to create one cohesive video.

I had a lot of fun at the festival. I got to meet some really awesome people who have careers in the film industry and are very talented at what they do.


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:

Beacon Herald Review 2015

Stratford Gazette Review 2015

The Beacon Herald Review 2014

The Stratford Gazette 2014