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Ottawa film program focuses on young newcomers

6-week SAW Video program shows youth how to shoot, edit, produce film

An Ottawa arts centre is hoping to inspire young people from the city's refugee and immigrant communities to use video to tell stories — especially their own.

SAW Video has partnersed with the Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization to launch a six-week video production program for youth between the ages of 13 and 24. 

Filmmakers Radamis Zaky and Aia Raafat are helping 10 youth conceive, shoot, direct and edit short videos about their experiences as newcomers to Canada.

Zaky told CBC Radio's In Town and Out that he felt the need to share his skills.

"These young people are excellent in telling stories. And they know how to tell stories. They are always on the social media," Zaky said.

"[But] they need to [learn the] basics. They need to understand the different shots, the different frames, different editing techniques." 

A partnership between SAW and the Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization created a new six weeks video production and filmmaking program specifically for newcomers, immigrant and refugee teens. 13:00

The next generation  

The program, called New Voices, is hoping to remove some of the barriers young people who are newcomers to Canada may face trying to learn video production.

Once they complete their final projects, participants will receive a certificate and have access to SAW Video's facilities and equipment. 

"This program is very valuable because it gives newcomer youth a voice," said Gabby Calugay-Casuga, a literary arts student at Canterbury High School who's enrolled in the program.  

"I think it's really great that we take a really diverse group and we are all pushed into a media setting and get to make films."

The program also teaches students about sound, lighting, composition and special effects. They'll eventually use those skills to create documentaries, dramatic films and experimental films.

"We started from the basics — and I needed that," Calugay-Casuga said.

'Sort of a therapy'

Some of the program's students are hesitant at first to share their stories, Zaky said.

Sometimes that's because they're too shy, but other times it's because they feel their stories are too despairing, he explained.

One of the program's students, Zaky said, is telling his story about the abuse he faced from teachers in one of the host countries he lived in as a refugee — and how that experience initially made him feel afraid in Canada. 

"This program is beyond just teaching the kids the basics of the video production ... I would argue that this is sort of a therapy," Zaky said. 

One brilliant way for people to know each other is to watch... films.- Radamis   Zaky ,  filmmaker and New Voices Instructor 

"The program is helping them express frustration and also [recover] a little bit from the trauma that they had in their transition ... from their countries of origin until they came to Canada." 

The films the students produce will be screened sometime this fall, he added. 

"People need to understand and to know each other," Zaky said. "And one brilliant way for people to know each other is to watch ... films."