Picking up his phone, 16-year-old Savas Aragon is buzzing with excitement. As one of nine finalists in the REELise film festival, his movie Hold On will be screened at Blue Giant Park, Rose Bay this Sunday, in what he describes as “a dream come true”.
“My mates and I always loved making films,” he said. “When we first heard about the short film festival and the awards, it was so interesting.”
Founded by director Karen Hamilton and a Rose Bay police youth liaison officer, constable Yasmin London, the inaugural event is open to filmmakers aged 12-18 and promotes using mobile phones as a positive tool of change against cyber-bullying.
REELise will be free to the public, with a special tribute to ambassador Charlotte Dawson on the opening night to raise awareness about the perils of cyber-bullying and how it affects young people. Accordingly, a unique aspect of the festival is its requirement for all entries to be filmed entirely on a mobile phone.
“It’s such a good way to do it, because it doesn’t matter who you are…this will keep it fair [and] balanced. [So much of] bullying is done on the phone these days,” Savas told the Bondi View.
“It was completely difficult to get used to filming at first, especially in scenes with a lot of movement. It’s the first film that we’ve ever entered [but] it was completely different to making all of our other films.”
Shot across the streets of Randwick and Maroubra, Hold On explores the consequences of social abuse by following the trajectories of David and Alex – two young boys whose lives are inter-twined when Alex becomes the victim of cyber-bullying.
“It’s about a kid who practises magic and then he…is being continuously pressured by these three bullies until…he can’t handle it anymore,” Savas said.
“It’s a sad but really powerful ending with a message that you’ve just got to hold on.”
For Savas, cinema is a great way of shedding light on the different kinds of abuse that schoolchildren go through, with one in 10 Australian students affected by cyber-bullying according to a December 2010 report conducted by the Alannah and Madeline Foundation.
“It’s such a good way to spread the word, having a fun festival to get a solid message about bullying, film is one of the best ways to do it,” he said.
The REELise festival is this Sunday, 4:30pm at Blue Giant Park in Rose Bay.