Student film festival channels artfully crafted shorts.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Barbed wire bristles around the edges. A long institutional hallway looms ahead. Doors slowly close.
A heavy feeling of confinement permeates the artfully made documentary Letters From Within, which debuts at CSUMB’s Teledramatic Arts and Technology Capstone Film Festival this Friday at the World Theater along with 21 other student works. Filmed at Wellington M. Smith Jr. School, a juvenile hall in Salinas, the seven-minute film finds the hall’s juveniles reading the letters they’d like to send to members of the outside world: A young mother talks about how she misses her son, a woman explains to her niece why she wasn’t present at her birth.
The filmmakers behind the quietly powerful work, TAT majors Juan Ramirez and Stephen Sprague, were working on a drama and comedy about modern cell phone use as their capstone, CSUMB’s equivalent of a senior project, before deciding to make Letters From Within instead.
“I think we’re a lot happier with the documentary,” Sprague says.
The switch occurred after Ramirez and Sprague shot another documentary at Wellington M. Smith Jr. School for their Service Learning requirement. That six-and-a-half-minute film, titled Concrete Paradigms, featured the juveniles, reading poems and opened CSUMB’s Teen Film Festival at the World Theater in April.
Recently, Ramirez became the recipient of CSUMB’s Outstanding Senior Award for Social Justice, which celebrates a student who has made a positive change in the community. “I think this project [Letters From Within],” he says, “and the last project [Concrete Paradigms] helped me get it.”