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The Justice 4 Reel Film Fest supports young filmmakers


Debuting this week, the Justice 4 Reel Film Festival at Metro Cinema will focus on aspiring young film makers. The events will explore social justice issues through film, visual art, and music.

Festival director Maigan van der Giessen is the education programmer at the John Humphrey Centre for Peace and Human Rights. Staff at the centre had been toying with the idea of a film festival for a while, and working with young people inspired them to focus on a newer cohort of filmmakers.

“We wanted to hear their stories,” she says. “We also thought that commentary on social justice is something that is needed more.”

The idea was sparked by young local documentarian, Solon Birch Hiro.

“He was making a larger documentary on the topic of suicide and that just got us thinking ‘lets try to create an opportunity for these young people we’re working with.’”

With the help of Hiro, the group eventually got a small grant from the Edmonton Community Foundation, and the idea of Justice 4 Reel became a reality.

The festival will begin on Friday August 26 with seven youth submissions that touch on heavy topics such as poverty, suicide, and missing and murdered indigenous women. The night will also feature a reception and a meet and greet with some of the filmmakers.

One such notable film is My Life I Don’t Want, an animated film submitted by a young filmmaker in Myanmar, Nyan Kyal Say.

“That one is awesome. It touches on gender and the different experiences of girls and boys who grow up in Myanmar and that part of the world,” van der Giessen says. “As far as I know this will be the only opportunity to see this in Canada. It’s very exciting.”

Unlike the first night of Justice 4 Reel, the other two nights are not youth specific. Saturday night will focus on an international human rights issue with the 2014 locally made film Brothers in the Buddah. Directed by Beth Wishart McKenzie, the inspiring documentary follows the story of Michael, a 17-year-old Vietnamese-Canadian boy who was ordained as a Buddhist monk at one of Edmonton’s monasteries at the age of 10. The film highlights Michael’s challenges with self-identity in both the monastery and his community.

The documentary The Tipping Point: Age of the Oilsands, a film about the health-risks faced by the people of Fort Chipewyan, by local filmmakers Tom Radford and Niobe Thompson, will be the highlight of Sunday night.

“It had originally aired on The Nature of Things with David Suzuki, but we’re airing a newer, updated version. I’m really excited for it.”

For the first year, Justice 4 Reel starts out pretty small, but van der Giessen hopes that it will grow in future years.

“I really hope Edmonton shows up to support our young film makers and show them that their art has value,” she says. “I really think viewers will be surprised and impressed with the level of skill these young people have with film.” 

Fri, Aug 26 — Sun, Aug 28
Metro Cinema, $9 to $12

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