International Youth Day film a wrap!

August 17, 2023 6:31 am

Over the weekend, thirty students became actors to produce the short film ‘What if I told you’. The story features a man being sentenced for his crimes. In the courtroom, he explains how his experiences as a child impacted the actions he took and the crimes he committed. He addresses his problematic childhood and how those around him, such as his parents and teacher, could have helped him at an earlier stage in his life. All characters in the film are played by 6 to 12-year-old students attending Methodist Agogic Centre - Rev. John A. Gumbs (MAC JAG).

The script is written by Teacher Rosan Hartley-Gayle and was performed by her students at the 2nd annual Interscholastic Spoken Word Competition organised by Men’s Mental Health Awareness. The play received a standing ovation and won 1 st place at the event. After seeing the performance, the Department of Youth, in collaboration with UNICEF the Netherlands – offered to produce the film as part of a series of initiatives to promote more meaningful youth participation.

Last year, during the Youth Roundtable Conference, young people expressed the need for more creative opportunities to express themselves. Making a film is a fun and creative experience, and students will also learn about the local court system, children’s rights, and the basics of filmmaking. The Department of Youth also aims to utilise the short film and its societal messages as an introduction for future youth participation events.” explains Soraya Agard-Lake, Head of the Department of Youth.

The filming for ‘What If I Told You’ started early on Saturday, August 12, International Youth Day, at the Courthouse – and took a collaborative effort to complete. As students arrived, MAC JAG teachers and staff took on various roles to help students with their costumes and make-up. The film crew set up their filming equipment, and UNICEF the Netherlands representatives, provided all logistics and catering.

The Pointe Blanche Prison provided clothing for the defendant. The Police Department provided uniforms for the roles of the police officers and a patrol car on standby to assist in filming the opening scene. The Courthouse provided the official robes for judge, prosecutor, clerk, and lawyer roles. Ms. Daniels, a Support Staff Member of the Courthouse, even brought her sewing machine to help adjust oversized clothing.

“The first day of filming was professional, it was like from Hollywood. It is my dream to be on camera,” says 11-year-old Tyler Timothy shyly when interviewed. However, when playing her role on the film set, that shyness disappeared – and she became a very strict teacher: “My role is the teacher. She thinks that the lead character is a bad child but does not know what is going on at his home. I think she should have helped him instead,” Tyler notes.

Peter Sagnia, who has produced films for over 20 years, expressed that he was impressed with the students: “The students did a great job of staying in character and improvising when needed. Filming a movie is tough, and they all rose to the occasion. I saw some great acting potential!”

Lenworth Wilson, Youth Participation Specialist for UNICEF the Netherlands, assisted Teacher Gayle as acting coach for the weekend: “11-year-old Venndy Isaac, who plays the lead character, had the most scenes to complete over the weekend. He knew his lines by heart, reciting them without fail – and with great emotion. The students' professionalism and creativity during this process provide an excellent example of how young people can rise to a challenge or opportunity when given to them.”

The next step is organising a fitting film premiere and viewing opportunities for the public. For more photos, the upcoming trailer, and viewing dates of the film, the public can follow ‘Department of Youth SXM’ or ‘UNICEF Sint Maarten’ on Facebook.

This activity is part of the Child Resilience and Protection Project (CRPP) executed by UNICEF the Netherlands in collaboration with the Government of Sint Maarten, financed by the Government of the Netherlands, through the Sint Maarten Trust Fund, and administered by the World Bank.

Students are ready to start filming the courtroom scenes of short film ‘What if I told you’.
Peter Sagnia and crew with students on the second day of filming flashback scenes for the film.