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Film festival at UNT presents teens’ stories

Maya NixonWhen Maya Nixon’s parents got divorced, her world turned upside down. Her grades suffered, and she felt isolated from peers. Teenagers grapple with a range of emotions in the years between childhood and adulthood.

The sixth annual Campecine Film Festival, which takes place at 10 a.m. March 29 at Crumley Hall, Conference Room, features digital media work by Nixon and other Denton High School students participating in Peer Assistance Leadership and Service (PALS), a nationally recognized program giving teens the means to express their emotions in constructive and creative ways and make a difference in their lives, schools and communities. The event is free.

Now a high school senior in her second year with the program, Nixon, above, said the program has been like a second home. She has made great friends in classmates and teachers, and the program has taught her that everybody has a different perspective about life.

“I am thankful to have been a part of this year’s as well as last year’s story circle,” said Nixon. “It is truly an amazing opportunity for young people to have their voices listened to without judgment. I hope the Denton community will attend the Campecine film festival.”

For the past eight years, Mariela Nuñez-Janes, associate professor in the Department of Anthropology, and Tim Sanchez, a physics teacher at Denton High School, have been collaborating with the Denton PALS chapter to teach a class on digital storytelling in which students learn to make films based on their experiences. They are assisted by Dallas-based spoken word artists and diversity educators Will Richey and “AP” (Alejandro Perez Jr.) of DaVerse Lounge, who work across the area teaching emotional literacy to youth through poetry, music and visual art.

Through a series of team-building activities and discussions, students find and script the stories of their lives on topics ranging from school and church to family and friends. Using personal cameras and professional equipment made available through the class, they capture footage and translate their stories to the screen with the help of UNT student mentors in a three-day production workshop that teaches basic digital media skills such as video and audio editing.

Nuñez-Janes, right, uses innovative educational strateMariela Nuñez-Janesgies that engage community. She conceived the digital storytelling class as a way to help students develop emotional literacy in managing the challenges of being teenagers, and problem-solving skills in researching and creating culturally relevant projects.

“In the process of making films the students develop a confidence in themselves and recognize their potential to meaningfully contribute to society,” she said. “Teens are naturally sensitive and seek answers about their identity as well as the human condition. The films capture their earnest and often poetic interpretations of life, and the Campecine Festival is a wonderful venue for showcasing this talent.”

Begun in 2007 as a pilot study based on a workshop provided by the Center for Digital Storytelling, Berkeley, a pioneer leader in the use of digital storytelling for personal and professional development, the class has involved more than 100 students since its inception.

—Julie West, University Relations, Communications and Marketing

  • Contact: Mariela Nuñez–Janes, 940-369-7663

Posted on: Tue 11 March 2014

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