NYC screening of Rebecca’s Story

NYC ScreeningRecently, we submitted our film, Rebecca’s Story, to the Caribbean Film Academy in Brooklyn and our film was shown on Friday night last week. This was a very interesting event and it reminded me of how I imagine the “beatnik” era here in the NYC underground in the 1950’s and 60’s. The theatre was set up in a storefront. There were 30 or 35 people in attendance, mostly Guyanese and they were interested, vocal and plugged into Guyana and what’s happening there. There was a journalist attending as well. She conducted interviews and tape recorded them.

A number of films were presented, short films and one music video. The longest film was “Tin City”, an expose about life in Tiger Bay. After each film was shown discussions ensued about the films.

The response to Rebecca’s Story was quite warm. Everyone loved it! I noticed something while the film was showing…people warmed with the jungle river scenes and also the street scenes. Some smiled and nodded as they recognized the familiar sites, the streets and houses on the block. They seemed to be interested in the scene where Rebecca is in the kitchen spreading margarine on the bread…there were smiles and some heads nodding there.

I spoke with a number of people after the films were done showing. They were really amazed that the film was adapted by our group of young people, from a story written by one of them, filmed by them, sound, lights, make up, costumes and the whole bit by our youth. They were surprised that we could have made such a beautiful meaningful little film.

This was our first film showing here in NYC. We are in the process of entering, and we have already submitted the film at a number of film festivals including the Trinidad & Tobago Film Festival which is the largest one in the region. But we are submitting to a number of festivals including here in the state and others in the Caribbean. We are in discussions with the Education Channel in Guyana and we do expect to be shown on that channel.

Guyana Chronicle: “12 Minute Film Has Desired Impact”

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TWO young children who have been dropped off at their grandmother’s say goodbye to their parents, and with the touching exchange of ‘I love yous’ tinged by a tangible level of apprehension, you know something is about to go tragically wrong.

This is how the 12-minute film, Rebecca’s Story, began as it premiered last evening at Cara Lodge.

Set in a Georgetown suburb, the story of bravery – standing up for change to fight gender and child violence – made its mark on the many stakeholders gathered to view the most recent advocacy tool. The tale that unfolds tells of the struggle of a teenage girl and her young brother, two orphans, now permanent guests of their grandmother, who is an alcoholic with a violent streak.

The children endure physical and verbal abuse at her hands until a neighbour, a young boy, takes notice. Bravely, he uses an educational opportunity, an invitation to a reading class, as a means to bring some change to the children’s lives.

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First Screening of Rebecca’s Story Film

Rebecca's Story Screening

There was a lot of anticipation for the film showing but honestly nobody knew what to expect. As people were arriving we had the screen set to a powerpoint showing different pictures from all of our various programs…the poster program and on and on…then when we began the program we showed the Indiegogo film followed by opening statements by Minister Priya Manickchand. She gave a wonderful speech and spoke glowingly of MCF’s programs and of WITNESS Project in particular.

The parents were completely stunned by the performance and they were amazed and they absolutely could not believe it! They were beaming from ear to ear over the work of their kids. They were all just amazed by the whole night but particularly by the quality of the film. Everyone was amazed by that! When I was speaking in the run up to the showing of the film I made mention that the script is an adaptation from Verney Henry’s story and Verney’s sister and mom were beaming ear to ear.

There was a hearty round of applause after the film and we moved into the awards ceremony part which went smoothly with all of the people beaming upon getting their award!

We knew at the end of that night that it was a hit and that everyone unanimously agreed that it was very very professionally filmed and a winner!

The next day (Sunday) we had a group meeting to discuss future business but to get the kids reactions and more detail from their families….this was very interesting to me because first of all our kids have developed into rather poised, articulate young people, no longer shy like when we first met them. There was unanimous agreement that the film was VERY PROFESSIONALLY done and that they LOVED, LOVED LOVED IT! But I took notes and here are some specifics

I was excited..like I could watch it over and over again

I was speechless. It was truly amazing. My father saw it and said that it was touching, but it was touching to me too.

It was so professional. It shows our point of view. I loved it.

I was surprised to see two weeks in 12 minutes and my mom said “you didn’t say this was so professional”

It made me so proud and it made me feel great that I could do something like that.

Congratulations … I can’t believe we did this, we did this to help the world, I can’t believe it.

I loved the movie and the quality of the movie. I loved how parents got to see how we see things.

I loved the movie and I didn’t expect such high quality. I was impressed with everyone because they were impressed by what we made.

I loved this experience and I hope to do this again. It was the memories of all of the tricks. The hard work payed off. The quality was astonishing…it was spot on!

I had no idea. It was amazing and my family was amazed by it. They said “this is big”. Its a nice feeling to be a part of something making changes everywhere.

The movie is amazing. I can’t wait to see it again. My family was speechless.

The film was brilliant, special, and I’m looking forward to the next film. I had flashbacks everywhere. It was awesome.

I never thought the film would be so professionally done!

Those are some of the highlights that the kids spoke of but of course there was unanimous LOVE for this film and how professional it is. It was their very proud moment and they deserved every accolade they received. We were all of us so proud of them and grateful for all of you. There was universal agreement that the score was super and they were surprised that it’s original and was done by a professional for their film.

[THENUBLK] ALYSIA CHRISTIANI: Project Manager For Guyanese Arts-Based Initiative WITNESS Project International

NUBLK articleIntroduce yourself
My name is Alysia S. Christiani. I’m a Brooklyn born Guyanese-American gyal who, by day, manages designers in corporate America and, by night, freelances as a writer, designer & project manager under the banner Christiani Creative. Through it all I parent two amazing teen boys determined to drive me insane but who are failing miserably at it.

Due to the economic downturn, I was laid off from my job as Studio Manager for Sesame Workshop in late June. But by the end of the summer I was hired as Creative Services Manager for the New York Road Runners, one of the premier community running organizations in the country. There I manage a team of designers as they develop art and materials for our weekly races, youth programs and community events.

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The art of reducing violence against women, children… five counsellors trained

the art of reducingA counsellor from the Help and Shelter Centre is one of five persons who recently participated in a five-day training session sponsored by the Margaret Clemmons Foundation, aimed at using the arts to reduce violence against women and children.

Help and Shelter Counsellor Tessa Green along with Oslyn Crawford, Yogetta Rampersaud, Davin Munroe and Leslie Albert who are attached to the Ministry of Human Services, attended the workshop at the Peaceable School’s summer programme at the Lesley University in Cambridge Massachusetts.

At a press conference on Wednesday at the NGO’s Homestretch Avenue office Green said the Centre was privileged to have benefited from the workshop. “It’s a programme I think will work in Guyana but needs the support of all,” she said.

According to a news story from the University’s website located at web.lesley.edu/news: the programme was held under the theme “I=WE Practicing and Supporting Leadership for Peaceable Schools and Communities.” The “Institute provides both a theoretical framework and practical solutions for educators and community members struggling to find alternatives to the culture of violence and create environments where teaching and learning can flourish,” it said. The article also said the programme creates a “network of graduates…for ongoing support in applying newly learned skills and tools to current issues.”

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Sesame Street Guyana

Sesame Street GuyanaIn spring 2011, negotiations occurred between Sesame Workshop and the nation of Guyana to develop a local co-production of Sesame Street. In April 2011, Guyana’s Permanent Ambassador to the United States Bayney Karran and Guyana Minister of Human Services Priya Manickchand met with senior executives at Sesame Workshop in New York. The series would be aired on the Education Broadcasting Television Service channel.

Gender equality and gender-based violence would be among the show’s focuses; the Margaret Clemons Foundation facilitated the meeting between Guyana and Sesame Workshop.

Other planned topics were HIV/AIDS, nutrition, the importance of exercise, public safety themes (wear your seatbelt, look both ways before crossing, don’t litter), ethnic tolerance and understanding and appreciating differences, and respect for seniors.

Attending the meeting were Sesame Workshop staff:

  • H. Melvin Ming, Chief Operating Officer;
  • Charlotte Cole, Senior Vice President Global Education;
  • Lisa Annunziata, Vice President Production Operations Global TV;
  • Jorge Baxter, Director International Research;
  • Christopher Capobianco, Senior Director Project Management;
  • Nancy Stevenson, Director Character Design;
  • Alysia Christiani, Studio Manager Marketing & Creative Services

No further news has surfaced to date.

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Kaieteur News: ‘Witness Project-Guyana’ kids rewarded with Kaieteur Falls tour

Kaieteur NewsIn an effort to reward the 23 children of ‘Witness Project-Guyana’ for their roles in trying to stop violence against women and children, Trans Guyana Airways on Thursday, last, awarded them an all-paid expenses trip to the Kaieteur Falls.
According to Ms. Margaret Clemons, the head of the foundation under which the project is being executed, the members, all of whom are children, are working to send a bold message to adults that violence against women and children must end.
She added that the children have also been working on the Witness Project to eliminate gender-based and child-directed violence via art.

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Margaret Clemons Foundation begins workshop on domestic violence–following up on famous ‘eyes’ poster project

Margaret Clemons Foundation begins workshop on domestic violence–following up on famous ‘eyes’ poster projectTHE local chapter of the New York-based Margaret Clemons Foundation yesterday began a domestic violence workshop for children aimed at reducing domestic and gender-based violence, and child abuse in society. Some of the children who participated in the workshop yesterday.The initiative is a continuous community outreach project for youths, and the aim of the foundation is to use art to end this growing scourge in society.

Speaking with the Guyana Chronicle during an interview at the local offices situated at the Help & Shelter Building on Homestretch Avenue, Ms. Margaret Clemons, founder of the organisation, said it is her belief that the scourge would best be eradicated by taking a different approach to the situation.

“We believe that by using the arts and using children we could be able to make bolder statements that adults can hear and look at through the visual programme. It’s a photography programme, it’s something that will hit home,” she stressed.

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Caught in the crossfire

Caught in the crossfireAndy Hunte is dead at two months old. He died on Tuesday night as a result of being caught in the crossfire of physical abuse being meted out by one of his parents to the other. According to a report carried in this newspaper, Andy Hunte was presented at the Georgetown Public Hospital with lacerations to his body and a gaping wound to the head. He was unconscious and subsequently succumbed. Andy Hunte’s short miserable life is an extreme example of the effect violence between adults—especially in home—has on children. In this case Andy Hunte lost his life; often, children lose their childhood.

While there are systems in place to deal with the abuse of children and while violence against women is slowly being addressed, the plight of children caught in the crossfire, who may not be actually physically harmed, has mostly been ignored despite the fact that it is well known that they can be mentally and emotionally affected by what they see and hear.

The Margaret Clemons Foundation’s Witness Project, which is closely aligned with the international project Inside Out by French artist/photographer JR, used his motto, “what we see changes who we are”, in its massive roll out at the end of January this year of huge photo/posters around Georgetown. The posters of eyes and faces taken by 15 children who have been involved with the project since last year, sought to use art to get the message out there that children are seeing and experiencing violence and that it changes them. This aspect of the project was successfully executed—hundreds of posters were pasted up around the city—and it started conversations. But where do we as a society go from here? Children who are witnessing violence need more.

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