<em>The Great Wall of Los Angeles</em>

This coming Sunday, February 5, four movies made by students in Youth CineMedia’s filmmaking program will be screened at the Lobero Theatre as part of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. Since 2003, the nonprofit Youth CineMedia has been helping keep at-risk teens out of the juvenile justice system by teaching them about emerging media technologies. Their stated philosophy is that “through learning a discipline in the arts, our youth can develop stronger character traits, allowing them to be more creative and productive people.” The program is proving to be popular with many teens, especially those from very low-income families and under-served communities.

Regina Ruiz, Youth CineMedia’s codirector, said that students range “from 11 to 21 years old, and some are even older.” She added, “Once you are a student in our program, you become part of our family. We have students who are now pursuing film degrees that come in for assistance with computer programs and media technology.” Most of the students in the program are 15 or 16 years old and already working with college-level media.

Osiris Castañeda founded Youth CineMedia (he now acts as codirector with Ruiz), starting out teaching classes in “parking lots, apartment complexes, garages, alleys, parks and any place where at-risk or gang related youth gathered.” By 2005, Youth CineMedia was given a Community Technology Grant of $250,000 by the Department of Education, bolstering the now-thriving program. According to Ruiz, since YCM’s inception, around 1,400 to 1,500 students from throughout Santa Barbara have learned video production, music production, photography, graphic design, acting — skills that lead to job opportunities and higher education.

This year will be YCM’s eighth at SBIFF, and the films cover a wide range of topics.

Students incarcerated at Los Prietos Boys Camp and Academy in Santa Barbara County made “Dear Mom,” one of the shorts showing on Sunday. This film shows boys at the camp writing letters to their mothers, giving viewers an emotional look into their lives and families.

“Turning Streets into Prison Walls: The Real Truth Behind Gang Injunctions” started as a Google search for Marco, Luis, and Alba, the makers of this documentary about how youth in California are criminalized without root problems being addressed. After a proposed citywide gang injunction, the filmmakers traveled across Santa Barbara and up to Oakland and Fruitvale in search of answers.

A half-mile long mural from the 1970s representing interracial harmony and immigration in Los Angeles is the subject of “The Great Wall of Los Angeles.” YCM students served as documentarians for the Great Wall’s restoration project, showing how the artwork is a monument to the history of California.

The final work being shown Sunday is a series of public service announcements on underwater exploration. These videos, made in collaboration with the Santa Barbara Creeks Division, use underwater HD cameras to track the journey of a piece of trash from the street out into the ocean.

Sunday, February 5, 10 a.m., Lobero Theatre.


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