It seems bullying is on everybody's mind these days. There are bullying task forces, bullying newsletters, national bullying reporting agencies, and training sessions set up by the Minnesota Department of Education to illuminate the problem for teachers and parents. Every day, educators' inboxes are filled with the latest anti-bullying information.
Students are in on it too. As the Director of the .EDU Film Festival, Minnesota's only school sponsored, state-wide festival for high school students, I am in the unique position to see what young people from across the state are thinking about. Every spring, I watch from 130 to 150 short videos, shot and produced by Minnesota youth. Last year, there were a half a dozen about texting and driving. This year, it's all bullying.
I thought that as a follow-up to my last article on bullying resources, I would feature some of the anti-bullying documentaries, public service announcements, and animations that were produced, submitted, and screened at the 2012 .EDU Film Festival on May 18th. But instead, I want to share something a bit more special.
Steven Browman is a high school student at Burnsville High School and the subject of his friend Scott Svare's documentary. Steven likes to play Madden NFL on the ps3, he runs track - the hurdles, has tried his hand at downhill skiing, and sends text messages to his friends with ferocious finger speed. Steven is a student, a friend, and filmmaker. He's also blind. Totally blind.
Scott's film is a story of inclusion and acceptance. One after another, Burnsville students line up in front of the camera and respectfully report another amazing Steven Browman story. On camera and in person, Steven just smiles and shrugs his shoulders.
Scott and Steven's short film, Sight Without Eyes, was a semifinalist at the festival last Friday, and went on to grab both Best Documentary and Best-in-Fest overall. Steven was at the festival all day, cane in hand, roaming St. Anthony Main Theater and MTN Television Studios with 250 high school filmmakers. Scott was late, he missed his connection that morning, flying back from the International Science and Engineering Fair in Pittsburgh. Steven did just fine without him.
Scott made it to the festival in time to hear his film called out for top honors, and he led his friend Steven up to the stage to collect their award amid a roar from the crowd of teens.
Steven and Scott document the strength, the character, and the underlying goodness that is alive in our sons and daughters. It struck a chord with their peers at the festival and as the award ceremony closed, they were surrounded by kids from all over the state of Minnesota; young people who just wanted to say hello and shake the hands of a couple of high school kids who demonstrated that it's not all about bullying.
Sight Without Eyes has been posted on Vimeo for just over a month and has received well over 5000 hits.