10th annual What’s Up Doc? showcases insightful student films

Written by Shanthi Bell on June 6, 2019

What’s Up Doc? Film Festival trophies. Photo by Shanthi Bell.

Local high school students showcased their films to a full house at the 2019 What’s Up Doc? Film Festival on May 30 at the University of New Brunswick (UNB) in Fredericton.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the What’s up Doc? program and festival.

Seven ASD-W teachers participated in the program this year, two of them for the first time.  

Since 2009, the What’s up Doc? program has been coordinated by Matt Rogers of the UNB Faculty of Education and part owner of Frictive Pictures / Projects.

The evening’s program was opened by Ty Giffin. Giffin is the project coordinator for Frictive Projects and is an award-winning filmmaker. Opening remarks were presented by Colleen Dyer-Wiley, ASD-W Literacy Coordinator followed by David Coon, MLA for Fredericton-South and Leader of the NB Green Party.

Coon, subject in one of this year’s documentaries, attended to support the students and congratulate all of the participants. In his opening remarks, he emphasized the importance of documentary filmmaking in New Brunswick and the “…creative intensity it takes for students to take an idea and make it into a film.” He encouraged parents to support their children in pursuing a career in documentary. At the Legislative Assembly on June 5, 2019, Coon spoke more on the festival. Watch it here.

One of the teachers, Amy Bourgaize, has been participating in the program since its inception. In recognition of her continued participation and dedication to the program, Coon presented her with a Lifetime Achievement Award on behalf of What’s Up Doc?.

In the opening address, Rogers asks the audience to “…listen deeply, listen thoughtfully, and listen productively” to student voices. These documentaries show that students have a very clear voice on contentious issues, it is time everyone listened to them.

The festival opened with a “Behind the Scenes” look at the What’s Up Doc? program created by Frictive Project’s Curtis Brewster who also mentored some of the students. The black and white film sits us down with the teachers as they talk about their experiences with the program.

Bourgaize’s class created the film Not Your Culture which explored cultural appropriation and the ignorance and disrespect related to it. The film garnered nominations for Best Documentary, the Student Voice Award, Best Cinematography, Best Director, Best Production Design and Best Screen Presence, ultimately taking home the Student Voice Award.

Greg Porter, who is participating for the second time, helped his students to produce two films; Nico-Teen and The Hill. Nico-teen’s Jacob Hogan took home the award for Best Actor. The Hill took home the award for Best Screenplay.

Students who worked with Emily Chevrier and Neil Brewer made two films; Between Two Worlds and Stereotypes: Fear of the Unknown. Between Two Worlds’ Ufuoma Akalusi’s captivating interview won for Best Screen Presence. The excellent post-production work in Stereotypes: Fear of the Unknown l garnered the prize for Best Editing.

Andrea Donovan from Leo Hayes High School and her class created You Are Not Alone Here. The directors Kari-Lynn Johnston and Ethan Rioux won Best Direction.

The class from Nackawic High School worked with Stephanie McGrath and Allen Chase to create Nackawic: A Big Axe Problem. They investigated the health and environmental issues associated with the pulp and paper mill in Nackawic. Its creative approach to documentary won the award for Originality.

Jon Dewar’s classes created four documentaries this year. They include; A Game of Monopoly, Alternative, Stereotypical Symphony, and Through the Queer Lens. Alternative won Best Production Design for its unique look. Stereotypical Symphony won Best Sound/Music. Through the Queer Lens was awarded Best Cinematography. The group’s last film, A Game of Monopoly discusses the wealth gap and how already marginalized groups are structurally disadvantaged when it comes to income equality. Its compelling interviews as well as the thoughtful illustrations won this group Best Documentary.

The screening closed with an independent project created by an eighth grade student Raven Scott, under the guidance of Casey Burkholder, a faculty member in the Department of Education at UNB. Through Imprint Defined, Raven look deeply at the goals and background of the Imprint Youth Association, which is Fredericton’s developing association for LGBTQ2SIA+ youth and young adults. Raven was presented with the Rising Star award for their outstanding documentary work as an independent filmmaker.

Although some may feel like the films marks the end of the project, Rogers reminds us that “the films created for [the festival] are only a part of larger social projects, initiated by the filmmakers.  What is most important is what we, all of us in this audience, do next.”

Shanthi Bell is a media assistant for Frictive Projects

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