"My favorite place is my imagination." ~ Jackie Pagan, featured narrator in Youth Producing Change
My friend, Linda, invited me to the Human Rights Watch film festival here in New York at Lincoln Center's Walter Reade Theatre. We went to see Youth Producing Change, a documentary created from the stories of 10 young film makers on issues ranging from youth homelessness to HIV / AID to water conservation. The stories are deeply moving, and all the more remarkable because they were made by film makers under 18 years old, many from impoverished countries who belong to marginalized populations.
How often do we catch ourselves saying, "how can I make a difference?" or "what change can I really achieve in this complicated world?" We had the great privilege to have a question and answer session with the film makers after Youth Producing Change had its screening. The producers don't ask themselves these questions. They have gone confidently in the direction of their dreams, believing now only that they can have an impact, but rather that it is their obligation and their duty to create change.
Most times, young people are told to respect their elders, to follow the lead of adults, to learn from their mentors. Sitting in the Walter Reade Theatre today, I found that these young adults have much more to teach us than we have to teach them. They have seen, heard, and experienced life in a way that is very difficult for most of us to even imagine; the vivid images and language of the documentary give us a frame of reference that is critical to build our empathy and compassion for the human experience. Thankfully, their stories are the stuff of movies now, and we should do our best to nurture, support, and encourage their drive, ambition, and courage to tell their stories.
Youth Producing Change will be screened in high schools across the U.S. and was shown at the festivals in Chicago, Toronto, San Francisco, and London. The Human Rights Watch film festival continues in New York through June 25th.