Underrepresented youth tell their stories

DisPLACEment, a media arts program run by the Access to Media Education Society (AMES), looks to give young people in marginalized communities the platform and support that they need to tell their stories.

Founded over 20 years ago, the Access to Media Education Society’s goal is to provide access to media training and technology for people misrepresented or invisible in mainstream media. One of their current programs, disPLACEment, brings together youth who identify as indigenous, refugees or migrants and gives them the space to express themselves and tell their stories through film. A series of videos created and produced in teams of 3–5 over three consecutive weekends in October will be presented at a public screening at Robson Square on Dec. 8.

“I think that a lot of the myths and biases that hurt marginalized communities are perpetuated through mainstream media,” says Deblekha Guin, the Executive Director of AMES. “This is about giving young people the tools to represent themselves and seize control over their own stories.”

Their stories matter

The program started in late September when the 24 young people involved in the project went on a three day trip to Galiano Island, where they shared their stories with each other and learned about some of the issues facing different communities, as well as filmmaking aspects such as scriptwriting and visual storytelling.

DisPLACEment group on Galiano. | Photo courtesy of Access to Media Education Society

“There’s a lot of different things tackled in the videos,” says Guin. “Some are about the process and difficulties of finding “home” for migrants: what it’s like to be a new arrival in Canada, the experience of getting here, and what people face once they get here, whether that’s generalized racism or just trying to make their way in a country where they might not speak the language or have family connections.”

There will also be videos from the perspective of youth with indigenous backgrounds, who after generations are still very much feeling the effects of the colonial oppression of their homeland. While each of the young people involved in the program brings different stories and experiences to the group, the overriding message that Guin wants this program to instill in them is the same.

“Your stories matter. Your perspectives matter. You have the capacity to convey them in a way that people are interested in seeing or listening to. I want people to walk away having more compassion and understanding for what some other communities are going through, as opposed to fighting over limited resources.”

Feeling the effects

That message has resonated with the young people taking part in the program.

“I am a newcomer to Canada,” says Yas Pian, who moved from Iran in 2016. “I had a lot of experience with bad things in Canada. Before this, I could hardly find someone to hear my story, but now I’ve been feeling better because I can see that there are people who care and will listen.”

Pian heard about disPLACEment through a mentor he had worked with on a different film program, and is focused on creating the soundtrack for his group’s film.

“The biggest aim of mine is showing the problems which do exist still,” he says. “Many people ignore these problems, thinking that everyone has a good life here, but that’s not necessarily the case for newcomers, indigenous people and others.”

For Danica Denomme, another one of the youth involved in the program, disPLACEment is not only about sharing stories and sparking dialogue for those who watch the videos, it’s also about the work that takes place within the group.

“I really feel a part of a team,” says Denomme. “It’s about filmmaking but it’s also about building relationships and working in collaboration and producing something that we’re proud of. I want everybody to succeed and I’ve seen that happen.”

Probably the most important part of disPLACEment is that it gives a platform for self-expression that is not necessarily available for everyone.

“We all have brilliant stories to tell,” says Denomme. “We are all artists. Creating a safe bubble where we can nourish and create art, that is very important. We all have a lot to say and everyone needs to hear stories that are diverse and different. If we don’t create space for that, then that’s another layer of silence.”

For more information, please visit www.accesstomedia.org.