CM . . .
. Volume VIII Number 15 . . . . March 29, 2002
Salt is a "filmzine" comprised of four mini-documentaries directed by 17-year-old grade 12 students at MIND, a high school in Montreal, who used this opportunity to"take their education into their own hands." The four girls each chose a different subject for their video: the education system, independent music, self-mutilation, and the quest for punk. The video was produced by the NFB, thereby giving the girls access to professional equipment, people with technical expertise, and quality production staff. The resulting videos vary dramatically in effect, purpose and quality.
The first video, by Amber, is about "the education system," but it seems to be merely an indictment of regular schedules and rote learning practices in schools. Adults interviewed make the point that girls like Amber who are capable of and relish independent learning should be happy that there is a place that encourages that independence: a graduate of MIND says that if she had gone to a regular school she would have "ended up a workaholic but wouldn't be as happy."
Morgan, the director of the second video, uses her time to explore the independent music scene which she feels appeals to teenagers because of the realism, reality and personal experience that is a basis for the music. The background to this piece includes alternative music performed by several musicians who consider that independence is the price that they must pay for control over their music. The video shows a well-rounded picture of the music scene, with interviews at a recording studio, record store and radio station that all strive to support independent musicians.
The introductory clips of the girls at a peer review session gain more meaning when discussing the video, directed by Karen, about self-mutilation. The students' lack of knowledge and understanding is used by the teacher as an illustration of why the topic is important. The video is comprised of interviews with two girls who have used various implements to cut themselves. One of the girls hasn't cut herself in over a year and used painstaking and careful rituals not to leave any scars; the other girl, who is only shown in shadow or with part of her face filmed, is still cutting herself. The interview clips are interwoven with poetry discussing the subject: "when she was 13 she dropped a glass and saw the dancing ballerinas of slick, slip, sharp shards, that which would be her salvation."
The last video is playful and professional, opening in a graphic novel format to present Bev who directs "Punk Girl" as an examination of punk culture, style and stereotypes. Several interviews illustrate different aspects of the punk scene, from adult musicians to a former punk who is now a member of SHARP (skinheads against racial prejudice) in an entertaining and enlightening examination of a largely misunderstood and ultimately inclusive attitude. As Paul Gott, a musician and part of the "only married punk couple I know," states, punk is "being who you want to be - as long as you don't want to be like everyone else."
The credits roll over footage of the four directors receiving their high school diplomas, their graduation a celebration and a fitting conclusion to their examination of four ways to present and discover individuality. Although previewing would be recommended before sharing with a class, any of these videos would provide a good starting point for a discussion.
Betsy Fraser is the Youth Services Librarian with Calgary Public Library.
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