Students at Canadian Martyrs Catholic School in Mississauga, Ont., screen films entered in the regional film festival. Photo courtesy Canadian Martyrs School

Stars are born: students put talents on film

  • April 28, 2022

The Mississauga East family of Catholic schools is holding its first annual student film festival, celebrating talent and providing a forum to share youth creativity during Catholic Education Week.

Inspired by the film festival launched by the Brampton West family of schools last year, elementary guidance and experiential learning teachers Connie Shepherd and Vickie Morgado created the event to give students the opportunity to make films based on the Catholic graduate expectations. Working in groups of three or fewer, Grade 7 and 8 classes from 21 schools in the region created short films of under five minutes and voted on the best for consideration in the inaugural event.

“It’s really fun to watch the films because they are all really unique and creative,” said Morgado. “It’s actually been a blast because you can see their personalities come out in each of the films.”

Outside of ensuring their films highlighted one of the seven Catholic graduate expectations, students were given creative freedom to make whatever type of film they wanted. They used their phones in most cases to record and focused on graduate expectations such as being a being a discerning believer, an effective communicator, a caring family member and a responsible citizen. Teachers worked with students to dissect each graduate expectation and to express them in their own words creating “I am” statements for each.

Students used animation, visual arts and acting to tackle subjects that they are passionate about such as the environment, equity, diversity and the celebration of music.

“The films were very personal to the students,” said Shepherd. “How they defined what being a discerning believer is for example, or how they define what being a responsible citizen is was up to them. I love that it reflected who they are and their communities.”

“I saw one film I was so impressed cinematography wise because they just used their phones,” said Morgado. “They took what we showed them in our lesson (on filmmaking) and it was really well done. There’s been a lot of skills they’ve learned through the process like collaborating and problem solving as well. I think keeping (the guidelines) open ended was really good.”

Shepherd and Morgado say they’ve received a diverse set of films ranging from funny films to those tackling deep and serious subject matter. Students have used stop motion animation to highlight themes and one team even made a cooking video focusing on the graduate expectation of being a caring family member by making a meal for loved ones.

Although not all the films will make it into the festival, the process of creating was a fun and rewarding — and much needed — experience after two years of interruptions to extra-curriculars due to the pandemic.

“We haven’t been able to do this stuff in two years so a lot of those things that we took for granted mean so much right now,” said Morgado. “They’re just having a lot of fun being silly. They love to make bloopers. Those won’t make it into the film but that’s the stuff they love. I think they just had fun and we just wanted to help bring that joy.”

A growing trend, there are film festivals taking place within other school boards across the province outside of Catholic Education Week. Brampton West already held its second annual event earlier in the school year. Shepherd and Morgado hope the film festival in their region will eventually grow into one large competition across the Dufferin Peel Catholic District School Board. In future years they would like to bring in industry professionals to mentor and speak to students about the different career paths available to them in the industry. 

Though neither really has a background in film, the festival has been a great tool to build community and help students to appreciate the gift they have in being able to celebrate their faith at school.

“I grew up in Dufferin-Peel, now I’m teaching in Dufferin-Peel and my kids go to school in Dufferin-Peel,” said Morgado. “I feel really blessed because it’s a real privilege to get to celebrate our faith. I don’t know if the kids appreciate that in its entirety. I know I didn’t at their age, so we’re trying to make them understand that through this project a bit too.”

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