SHS students make it to SiDocFest semi-finals

February 11, 2009 — by Rebecca Nguyen

Many students have entered. Only one can be chosen. Out of 100 students across the Bay Area who entered the second Annual Social Issues Documentary Film Contest (SI DocFest) hosted in San Jose. Two SHS films have qualified to be in the top 10, one group ranked 12th and one group received an honorable mention.

For this contest, Students were to create eight- to 10- minute documentaries highlighting local non-profit organizations focused on working with social issues.

On Feb. 8, the semifinalists’ films were screened at the Camera 12 Cinemas in downtown San Jose and the top award winners were announced. The films competed to win $20,000 in prizes to be shared between their non-profit organization, the school and filmmakers.
“BORP” by senior Alex Shebanow received second place and a $5,000 to be split between Saratoga High School, the filmmaker, and the non-profit organization, BORP, the Bay Area Outreach and Recreation Program which provides and promotes recreational sports activities for individuals with physical disabilities.

Also, seniors Chris Campbell, John Gifford and Wesley Kim received the sixth place award for their film “Sacred Heart: Welcome the Stranger.” Along with the recognition, they received a $750 donation to their non-profit, Sacred Heart Community and Outreach Center.

“Empowering Women, Eliminating Racism: The YWCA” by junior Jon Hurrell got a certificate for coming in 12th along with a $500 donation to his non-profit organization, the YWCA of Silicon Valley. An honorable mention was given to senior Alexander Ren and juniors Christopher Cha and Kevin Benzing for “Innvision.” They were given certificates and a $250 donation to their non-profit, Innvision, a homeless shelter and homeless advocacy group based in San Jose.

After being required to participate in this contest by video teacher Tony Palma, Hurell began to work on the film after December break.

Following much hard work and anticipation, Hurell was relieved when he saw the results for the semifinals.

“I found out some time last week when they posted it on the Internet. When I got home, I went on and I saw that I was a semifinalist,” said Hurell. “I was actually kind of surprised because this was the first time I ever entered a contest and it’s good to see your name up on the semifinalist list.”

After finding out this wonderful news, Hurell was soon greeted by proud friends as well as teachers.

“A lot of teachers congratulated me which was kind of scary. I didn’t really know how they knew, but an email got sent out,” said Hurell. “I told my friends beforehand that I was entering the contest and they congratulated me; one of my friends is even going to the awards night with me.”
Kim, Campbell and Gifford decided to film at Sacred Heart, a school and church, because they had all spent some time there before.
“We’ve all volunteered at this place before and it’s something that we felt that we could film and it would give us something to do,” said Kim. “Our teacher kind of edged us on saying like ‘hang in there’ and stuff like that.”

Not only were the students recognized for their films, but also Mr. Palma received the honor of being the first recipient of the Terry McElhatton Memorial Award named after Valley Christian film tearcher Terry McElhatton.

Being at the awards night was a thrilling experience for everyone.

“They went through the rankings and as you get closer to the top six then the more exciting it gets,” said Mr. Palma. “To have one of our students rank second place was outstanding. I was really impressed with the work that they did especially with the competition they had this year. I really was just overwhelmed with just how incredible the films were.”

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