Film festival at UNT presents teens' stories

Maya Nixon
Maya Nixon
Friday, March 7, 2014 - 15:48

What: The annual Campecine Film Festival features work by Denton High School students in collaboration with the University of North Texas and Peer Assistance Leadership and Service, a national program helping teens cope with and communicate the challenges and experiences unique to their world.

When: Screening at 10 a.m. March 29 (Saturday)

Where: Crumley Hall Conference Room, 1621 W. Highland St.

Cost: Free

Contact: Mariela Nuñez–Janes; 940-369-7663

DENTON (UNT), Texas -- When Maya Nixon's parents got divorced, her world turned upside down; her grades suffered, and she felt isolated from peers. Teenagers grapple with a range of emotions in the years between childhood and adulthood. The sixth annual Campecine Film Festival at the University of North Texas features digital media work by Nixon and other Denton High School students participating in Peer Assistance Leadership and Service (PALS), a nationally recognized program giving teens the means to express their emotions in constructive and creative ways and make a difference in their lives, schools and communities.

Now a high school senior in her second year with the program, Nixon said the program has been like a second home; she has made great friends in classmates and teachers, and the program has taught her that every one has a different perspective about life.

"I am thankful to have been a part of this year's as well as last year's story circle," said Nixon. "It is truly an amazing opportunity for young people to have their voices listened to without judgment. I hope the Denton community will attend the Campecine film festival."

For the past eight years, Mariela Nuñez-Janes, associate professor in the Department of Anthropology at UNT, and Tim Sanchez, a physics teacher at Denton High School, have been collaborating with the Denton PALS chapter to teach a class on digital storytelling in which students learn to make films based on their experiences. They are assisted by Dallas-based spoken word artists and diversity educators Will Richey and "AP" (Alejandro Perez Jr.) of DaVerse Lounge, who work across the area teaching emotional literacy to youth through poetry, music and visual art.

Through a series of team-building activities and discussions, students find and script the stories of their lives on topics ranging from school and church to family and friends. Using personal cameras and professional equipment made available through the class, they capture footage and translate their stories to the screen with the help of UNT student mentors in a three-day production workshop that teaches basic digital media skills such as video and audio editing.

Nuñez-Janes uses innovative educational strategies that engage community. She conceived the digital storytelling class as a way to help students develop emotional literacy in managing the challenges of being teenagers, and problem-solving skills in researching and creating culturally relevant projects.

"In the process of making films the students develop a confidence in themselves and recognize their potential to meaningfully contribute to society," she said. "Teens are naturally sensitive and seek answers about their identity as well as the human condition. The films capture their earnest and often poetic interpretations of life, and the Campecine Festival is a wonderful venue for showcasing this talent."

Begun in 2007 as a pilot study based on a workshop provided by the Center for Digital Storytelling, Berkeley, a pioneer leader in the use of digital storytelling for personal and professional development, the class has involved more than 100 students since its inception.

About the College of Public Affairs and Community Service

The College of Public Affairs and Community Service blends academic programs, applied research and collaborative external partnerships to provide innovative education and strengthen metropolitan communities. The college offers programs that were established as the first of their kind -- including emergency administration and an academic certificate in volunteer and community resource management. Two programs, rehabilitation counseling and city management and urban policy, are ranked by U.S. News & World Report in the Top 20 nationally (13th and 8th respectively) and both are first in Texas. The college also offers the first accredited master's program in applied behavior analysis in the world and the first online anthropology master's program in the nation. Other academic programs include alternative dispute resolution, applied gerontology, criminal justice, disability and addiction rehabilitation, public administration, social work, and speech and hearing sciences.

UNT News Service Phone Number: (940) 565-2108