The art of filmmaking is bridging the gap between the generations, as students at one Bayside middle school prepare to tell the real life stories of a group of local senior citizens.
Eighth-graders in Jason Spagnuoli’s Moving Image class at Nathaniel Hawthorne M.S. 74 have begun working with members of the CCNS Bayside Senior Center to reenact stories told to them by the senior citizens through documentaries.
This is the first time students are taking on such a task as the Moving Image class is currently in its first year at the school.
“[The seniors] have lived such a long and valuable life,” Spagnuoli said. “To me we’re empowering these seniors to say, ‘Look, your life does matter.’”
Spagnuoli also added that the experience allows the students, who were at first very skeptical about the project, to step away from their everyday mindset and for a moment take the time to listen.
The creative process started on Thursday morning when the seniors visited the students at the school located at 61-15 Oceania St., and began the conversation.
Throughout the morning the seven seniors, who were divided into groups with students, shared their stories, and then narrowed down what they would like their documentaries to focus on.
Story topics included finding a second love after the passing of a husband, traveling abroad, family history, and in one case the dramatic story of making it out of a concentration camp.
“It was pretty interesting. I heard a lot of facts and stories from their life and it opened my mind to do things and try new stuff,” said 13-year-old Myles Robinson.
For 14-year-old Luljete “Lulu” Mujaj, meeting the seniors opened the door to a new experience. She was paired off with a senior citizen who decided to focus her documentary on the moment she was set free from a concentration camp she was put in for three years during the Holocaust.
“It was really touching because all I’ve really known of concentration camps was from a textbook, videos and museums, but when you actually hear someone who lived during that it was really hard,” Mujaj said.
Now that the students have their story ideas for the films, they will work with the drama class at the middle school to cast the characters in the documentaries. The senior citizens will then return to the school in a week and be filmed telling their stories.
The overall process of creating the documentary, which includes editing the interviews into the reenactments and featuring music picked by the seniors, is expected to take about three to four weeks.
According to Spagnuoli, the documentaries are expected to be completed by the end of May with the hope of screening a few of them during the school’s film festival on June 3.