Love of film-making inspires change
"The only solutions that are ever worth anything are the solutions that people find themselves," once said Satyajit Ray, one of India's most respected film-makers, considered as one of the greatest film-makers of the 20th century.
The words and ethos of Ray - whose films had strong social themes, telling stories of the common people - find a voice in a quiet corner at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona. Here, a community film project is nurturing young minds, training them on the tools of the trade and giving them a medium of expression, through the aperture of the lens.
The young participants in the UWI Community Film Project (UWICFP) each have a story to tell. They are bound by a common thread - that of a zeal to make something of their lives, and seek to find a change through their storytelling.
"I was moved when we were filming a documentary on the homeless people in Kingston," said Ashia Campbell, Cohort 2 graduate of UWICFP. "I was shocked and surprised to see how 'invisible' those people were."
This was a first-hand experience for this 20-year-old to see how humanity has dissipated in the rat race.
"The passers-by will walk past, as if they see through them (the homeless people) and sometimes scoff or cover their noses. It was an eye-opener," she said, and a living proof that people with perfect vision could pass by without even seeing them.
For Rodain Cole, who at 19 wasn't sure where life was taking him, having been forced to discontinue his education because of financial challenges, the community film initiative came as a whiff of fresh air.
"I used to work in factory that makes chemicals, and I was learning how to mix to chemicals," he said.
When the UWICFP opportunity knocked on the door, he said he was floored.
"I was excited and nervous, and it was nerve-racking," Cole said. "But I became motivated and continued."
Film-making, for these youngsters who live in August Town, goes beyond the realm of glitz and glamour, capturing life stories beyond poverty and despair.
Coming from diverse backgrounds, film-making has been the common convergence ground for them.
Campbell, who was born in the United Kingdom and went to school there, moved to Jamaica with her mother when she was 13, adapted with the culture and is building her career in media.
Cole, on the other hand, stonewalled by monetary challenges, a lack of opportunities and uncertainties, has found a second chance.
"It is a life-changing experience," he said. "I was a negative-thinking person, but now I think more positive, my confidence has built up, and I never thought I could be a part of thing like this."
From mixing chemicals, Cole is now spending time in creating a different chemistry, which is flowing from the nib of his pen - writing short stories.
UWICFP has been a life-changer for Campbell, too.
"It was the best thing that could happen," she said.
READY TO TELL STORIES
Now armed with these skills, this budding entrepreneur wants to tell stories.
"There are a lot of stories to be told in this country," Campbell said. "They could be as simple as the mangoes on the trees to the people - Out of Many, One."
Campbell and Cole are two of more than 150 graduates who have learnt film-making and video editing through UWICFP. The project has been recognised as an inspiring model of excellence and has been instrumental in the creation of the annual GATFFEST (The Greater August Town Film Festival), which showcases films produced by the students and community members of the UWICFP.
"There is no end. There is no beginning. There is only the infinite passion of life," said Federico Fellini, renowned Italian film director and scriptwriter. This passion lives and grows through the eyes of these youngsters.