Eccles Outreach brings Sundance into classrooms
Just because a film plays the big-time at Sundance, doesn’t mean you can fool middle-school viewers into reverence. Take a classroom full of students, make them sit through a movie, not of their choice and you know the rest.
On Wednesday, Jan. 24, the two youngest filmmakers in the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, Alex Mack, and Diane Montero, came to Marsha Klarberg’s ninth-grade English class at Treasure Mountain International Middle School, under the auspices of the Eccles Film Outreach program, to show their documentary, "Mother Superior."
The students gave the film that little window of chance to prove itself. In minutes some students looked shocked, some had looks of compassion for the drug addicts pouring their soul out in the film, others were curious. Some were noticeably sad. But all were scrutinizing the film intently.
The Eccles Film Outreach program brings Sundance films, filmmakers, musicians and artists to Park City students year-long, said Ginger Tolman, the coordinator for the outreach program. The program brings Sundance short films of 20 minutes or less, into the classrooms during the film festival, and brings the filmmakers in to establish a dialog with students.
"Without question, this is the favorite part of my job, to see kids’ faces light up as they perceive this is a career option for them," Tolman said. It’s also an opportunity for them to talk with the filmmaker. You see great light-bulb moments with the connection between the students and the filmmakers."
In addition to "Mother Superior," seven other Sundance films were shown in Park City High School and Treasure Mountain, during English classes, creative writing classes and some general education classes. Films included, "Spitfire," "Fighting Cholitas," and the animated, "One Rat Short." Eccles Outreach presented a total of 22 showings in classrooms during the Sundance Film Festival, Tolman said.
In 22 short minutes, Mother Superior took students into the world of methamphetamine use, noting that Utah has the third-highest addiction rate of any state in the U.S. and most of the users start out as soccer moms. Why Utah? Why moms? No one seems to know exactly.
Mack and Montero are locals, getting their start in Spy Hop Productions in Salt Lake City. Mack found out her stepmother was addicted to meth. Mack hoped she could prevent others from the devastation her stepmother and family suffered.
Most of all, the film was sincere. It detailed seemingly wonderful aspects of meth use.
Did you know, users describe the feeling of euphoria that some users describe as a 30 to 300 on a scale of one to 10? Or that users lose weight quickly, or that users claim they get so much accomplished in a day, the neighborhood mark of success for a soccer mom?
So much for the good. "Meth is made from poisons you find under the sink," Montero said. One ingredient is rat poison.
But, users in the film said that after months of use, the euphoria turns to a blank indifference, the weight loss continues beyond the shadows-under-eye-sockets gaunt, and that which is accomplished ends up a mess.
Addiction can come with the first use. Teeth fall out. Sores and abscesses develop, which users continually scratch. The dog dies because you don’t get around to feeding it for weeks. Your kids may have to scrounge for their own food. So much for soccer mom.
There was not a lot of hope for those in the film, but there was a lot of hope for those watching it.
The question-and-answer session following the film had one student volunteering that her stepmother is addicted to meth, and she no longer talks to her.
Montero said meth addiction "affects poor, rich, black and white." Mack and
Montero made the film to take into the classroom, according to Mack. She and Montero don’t see themselves getting rich from "Mother Superior," short films don’t have that much of a market, but if the film can be distributed to schools, rehab-centers and youth groups think of the ruined lives that will never happen.
Not all Eccles Outreach films have the impact of "Mother Superior," but as Tolman said of students, possibly unable to see Sundance films, "It’s our desire to bring Sundance into the classroom. Students feel like they are a part of it. It’s not happening to them, but happening with them."
Signs of methamphetamine use, documented in "Mother Superior":
Rapid, excessive weight loss
Generally females average age span of 18-24 years old
Users come from all socioeconomic levels, but are predominately middle-class
Extreme activity, which eventually turns into lack of attention to every-day matters
Users becomes emotionally vacant over time
As addiction progresses, infections, sores and abscesses develop on skin
Gum disease may develop, with resulting tooth decay and eventual tooth loss.
Brain damage can occur. Memory loss becomes a major symptom.
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