Filmmakers in a Gray Area

Joanna Im

Jack Safir ’19 and Kat Swander ’19 won the Teen Press HERO Award for their short documentary entitled “Gray Areas” after their visit to Tijuana, Mexico and the United States border with Mexico.
“Gray Areas” marks the second consecutive HERO finalist award that has been received by students. The festival, in which winners of the award are announced, takes place mid-November of every year.
Safir and Swander’s film tells the stories of people who had controversial experiences at the border and their issues with the governmental policies and immigration.
“It’s incredible to see the dialogue surrounding the U.S.-Mexico border that has been sparked by the film since we first screened it a few months ago,” Safir said.
My HERO is an international contest where filmmakers of all backgrounds can submit projects that inspire and relate to current global issues.
The Teen Press Award recognizes students who have used journalistic short-films to introduce a current event in the world, according to the My HERO official website. The award is used to celebrate students covering controversial issues and awards the winners $500.
“We are looking for teens who are getting outside with their camera and their microphone and their passion and connection to tell stories in a way that only they can,” Teen Press Award Sponsor John Seigel Boettner said on the My HERO website.
Safir said that he and Swander came up with the idea of “Gray Areas” after the recurring topic of the gray areas within the government and the immigration process kept being discussed n their interviews.
They were inspired to title the film “Gray Areas” and expand upon the message that their interviewees told them.
“Our hope is that this film will give a voice to those who have been silenced or unable to speak for so long,” Safir said. “I think the goal of any documentary should be to inspire conversation.”
Both Safir and Swander said they wanted to share the stories to enact change on the issue of border control.
“We wanted this film to ignite a continued conversation among our peers and the larger community about an issue that is plastered across headlines and is often misconstrued by the media,” Swander said.
Swander said the film was submitted by video arts teacher Cheri Gaulke who took the aspiring high-school documentarians to Tijuana last year.