Three students from WMCAT’s Film and Video Program teamed up with ten students from High School Number 8 of the University of Guadalajara’s senior film class in Zapopan, Mexico to plan, produce and share short films that introduce their cities to their international counterparts. The short film exchange program was facilitated by the Mosaic Film Experience with the help of Sister Cities International.

“We initially developed the idea for a collaborative project during the pandemic, when students were attending classes online,” said Derk Baartman, vice president and COO, Mosaic Film Experience. “Grand Rapids Sister Cities International was an extraordinary resource in helping us connect with city and school officials in Zapopan, before we were introduced to the right instructor and the right school.”

The two cohorts of students worked together to determine the theme for the short films. Initially, the students picked the theme, how do you say you’re from Grand Rapids (or Zapopan) without saying you’re from Grand Rapids (or Zapopan). However, as the students worked through the project, social events shifted the student’s focus to highlight the pros and cons they see in their cities.

“I think that it’s beautiful that the students have the sensitivity to communicate and be open not only the right side of their cities but also the issues that they see. It is a clear sign that the students are very sensitive, intelligent smart people who are ready to speak out,” said Renato Moncayo, filmmaker and teacher, High School Number 8, the University of Guadalajara. “The coolest part of this project was meeting and working with peers from on other side of the world and just watching our teams go through the same process at the same time but in very different spaces.”

The WMCAT team of students was led by illustration + animation teaching artist Jalexia Stoutmyre and included Darryl Jackson, Wyoming High School; Henry Nygaard, City High School and Jakhai Vela, The Museum School.

“When we were walking around Grand Rapids, it was just after the murder of Patrick Lyoya. Our team of students really wanted to share that police brutality is a significant part of Grand Rapids, pointing out that there’s good and bad aspects of our city,” Jalexia said.

High School Number 8 of the University of Guadalajara team of students included and Loto Pinto, Emilio Casillas, Jerry Andrade, Luis Suarez, Andrea Díaz, Goretti Macias, Len Ramos, Tom Walker, Leonel Díaz Sigala and Nancy Jazmin García, all of them seniors.

“What I enjoyed the most about filming was realizing things that were always there but that I didn’t notice them before till I got the camera into them. I was like oh that was there all this time it’s like i guess kind of rediscovering my own city,” said Jerry Andrade, senior, High School Number 8, the University of Guadalajara.

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