By Leon Graham
MILLERTON — In a time of polarized politics and public discourse, the Civic Life Project — a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization — uses old-fashioned research and up-to-the-minute storytelling tools to engage high school students with community, state or even national issues they care about. Students spend a semester in traditional study of civics, then divide into groups to make documentary films about subjects they themselves select.
Developed by award-winning documentarians (and Cornwall residents) Catherine Tatge and Dominique Lasseur, the Civic Life curriculum allows students to use the visual language of their own social media world to explore serious topics and present their findings in short films.The Salisbury Forum and The Millerton Moviehouse annually present a group of these student films. This year’s screening will be on Sunday, June 11, at 11:30 a.m. at the Moviehouse.
While towns and cities throughout Connecticut wait to find out if public school funding will be cut again, students at West Hartford’s Classical Magnet School wanted to know how and why a school opened 21 years ago with the promise of an education rivaling that of private prep schools could see its high standards and enrichment programs reduced or eliminated. In “Education: Declined,” they discover a morass of bureaucratic rules and a strict racial balance requirement — which means that unless enough white students apply, African-American and Latino applicants must be turned away.
Stamford Academy-Charter School, always a producer of strong Civic Life films, this year presents “Pre-Trial Detention,” which follows the story of a high school student who was jailed for three months because he could not post $150,000 bail for a 2nd degree burglary charge.
Students from the Marvelwood School in Kent think global in “The Magic of the Atom.” Focusing on New York state’s Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant, they explore the safety and affordability of nuclear power as a possible green alternative to fossil fuel.
Housatonic Valley Regional High School students are concerned about mental illness in “The Dark Room.” Their documentary examines how society perceives mental illness and the stigmas associated with its various forms, especially depressive disorders. This is a particularly important subject with the increase in suicide among high school and college students.
Finally, “Final Decision” is a film from Monument Mountain Regional High School that tackles the issues surrounding the death of a classmate in a DUI incident. The focus is on prevention: how to encourage peers to make good decisions about drinking and driving.
The Salisbury Forum/Millerton Moviehouse presentation of Civic Life films will be on Sunday, June 11, at 11:30 a.m. at the Moviehouse in Millerton. Students will be present to introduce their films and answer questions. As with all Forum events — admission is free and open to all.