Last night, students from Fall Lab 2014 premiered their films to over 200 friends, family members, and supporters in HBO’s lofty screening room overlooking Bryant Park. The ten students who committed to Fall Lab 2014, Zoe Spielman, Catherine Robinson, Dylan Lester, Jakhi Sidberry, Javon Peters, Justin Casquejo, Julianna Greenidge, Mie Abouelkheir, Rondlin Florveus, and Sangeda Alin, created a diverse body of work over the course of six months at Reel Works. Their films reflected on themes such as gentrification in Astoria (Sangeda), damaging stereotypes placed on young Black men (Javon), the nuances of being a young Muslim Egyptian-American woman (Mie), and the value of pursuing art as a life-long career (Rondlin).
Zoe recalled, “During the first two weeks of lab, I honestly thought that I would just make my film and leave. I didn’t think I would make friends, but after second month I was talking to everybody.” During the post-screening Q&A, almost all the labbers chimed in on how they gradually became very close. Sometimes the group would stay at Reel Works hours after class had ended, sharing ideas and contributing to each others’ films.
The Lab wasn’t easy. Students spent on average 15 hours a week in class, editing, interviewing, researching, and losing footage in Final Cut Pro. While most other high school students would rather chill at home after a long day at school, Lab students dedicated their time and energy toward a project that would positively impact their lives and communities. Laurel Gwisdak, Education Director at Reel Works, congratulated labbers on their dedication, saying “You all exemplified the value of never giving up. You learned what it means to stay true to your vision and have the courage to tell your story.”
Labbers, in turn, shared what they want others to take away from their stories. In Jakhi’s film, Black and White, he states: “Shut your mouth. Shut your eyes. And open your ears.” Jakhi explained that he is proud to be a young Black man from Brownsville, regardless of outside perceptions that are negative. He encouraged the audience to adopt an attitude of openness and understanding, which ultimately requires more listening and less judging.
An individual from the audience shared about his admiration of Justin’s free running experience and desire to something similar, but also noted that his “obligations and time restraints don’t allow for it”. Justin replied, “Whatever your passion is, I encourage you to pursue it.” Collectively, Fall Lab did just that. They are pursuing their passions through film and encouraging others along the way.
2014 Lab Screening (WATCH)