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Professional Film Makers Visit our School

13 March 2015

This week we were delighted to welcome documentary film director Leah Warshawski and editor Todd Soliday to school to work with our Media and Film students. Year 11 Film and Media student Kirsty Tytherleigh tells us about the experience.

  • film director Leah Warshawski and editor Todd Soliday with students at the British International School Shanghai, Puxi

Leah Warshawski and Todd Soliday, the Director and Post Production Supervisor of ‘Finding Hillywood’, visited our school and spoke to Media and Film Studies students about their documentary and about the business of film in general. The documentary is about the film industry in Rwanda and it focuses on several characters and their jobs with the Rwanda Film festival, a festival also known as Hillywood which screens several films on an inflatable screen to hundreds of people.

Although the documentary is about the growing Rwandan Film industry and its talented filmmakers, it really captures the pain felt by the Rwandan Genocide that took place over 20 years ago and adds another influence and voice in Rwanda’s healing. Ayuub Kasasa Mago, the son of a victim of the Genocide, recites his struggle following the events in 1994. Both Warshawski and Soliday believe that there would’ve been a lack of depth and connection with the audience if that Ayuub hadn’t trusted them and shared what he did.

After viewing the hour-long documentary, students asked questions about the production of the film and the challenges that they had to overcome. It took just over seven years to make because of a shortage of money despite Warshawski’s father being the author of several books about raising money for filmmaking. Warshawski commented “Contacts can be everything but they can be nothing.” When asked if their original expectations of the film had changed, both admitted that it had altered greatly as they were unaware of Ayuub’s personal experience with the Genocide until five years into the project, which predominantly became the heart of the film.

After the question and answer session, the husband and wife team sat in on several lessons throughout the day and shared their advice and knowledge with students. They viewed student’s film coursework and made suggestions for improvement and when they requested the student’s opinions on ‘Finding Hillywood’ there was nothing but positive comments. ‘Finding Hillywood’ tells a heartfelt story and makes people realise the effect the art of cinema has on people’s lives, a documentary definitely worth watching.

- Kirsten Tytherleigh, 11B

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