PLATTSBURGH — With trophy in hand, eighth-grader Pema Dolkar had a request for the audience at the “I Stand Against Bullying” student film festival.
“If you didn’t make a difference yet, start now,” she said. “It’s never too late. And start it with compassion and not just sympathy.”
The Northeastern Clinton Central School student’s call to action was a common message of the third-annual event, held recently at the Cumberland 12 Cinemas in Plattsburgh.
The event was organized by the Task Force Against Bullying, a program under Champlain Valley Educational Services.
The show screened short films made by area students based around the themes of anti-bullying and promoting positive behaviors.
The awards included best overall films in elementary, middle and high school categories, as well as individual awards for best acting performances.
Top winner overall was a film produced by a high-school team from Northern Adirondack Central School comprised of Anna Lashway, Andrew Chase, Cameron Gero, Cheyenne Belrose and Hunter Nantasaeng
Many of the films, including NCCS’s award-winning entry, featured scenes of bullying played out twice: once with the victim facing the teasing alone and again with bystanders stepping in to help.
For Bonnie Black, a member of the Task Force against Bullying, the idea of speaking up when witnessing someone being bullied was one of the most important messages for the audience to take away from the event.
“We can’t leave it just up to the bully, we can’t leave it up to the target,” she said. “It’s the rest of us who actually need to take a stand against the inappropriate, disrespectful behavior.”
Along with anti-bullying messages, students in the 2014 competition were allowed to create films that promoted proper school etiquette.
Beekmantown Central School was given an honorable mention for its etiquette-themed film, “You Don’t Have to be a Superhero.”
The movie featured costume-clad students patrolling their school and encouraging others to pick up their trash, share gym equipment and be quieter on the bus.
Another new category was Best Actor in an Adult Role, presented to Cumberland Head Elementary School Principal Garth Frechette for his portrayal of a frazzled bus driver in the Beekmantown Central superhero film.
Although the topics the films promoted were serious, the atmosphere of the event was one of fun and celebration.
The students were given celebrity treatment for the evening, starting with a ride to the theater in party bus limousines provided by Ground Force One Limousine Service.
The students came off the bus to a crowd of paparazzi parents and faculty members, who guided them down the red carpet toward the theater’s lobby.
While waiting for the ceremony to begin, students were treated to free popcorn and a performance by ventriloquist Sylvia Fletcher.
For Keeseville Elementary School fifth-grader Faith Mudd, the film contest was not only a chance to promote good values but a creative experience as well.
“It was a lot of fun staying after school and making up the video with all of my friends,” she said.
Faith’s mother, April, said bullying can be a problem at any age.
“It was phenomenal seeing all the kids, with the age differences, and everybody’s opinion on how to try to stop the bullying,” she said.
George, Faith’s father, said he thought the event was fantastic and hopes it gains greater publicity and participation in the future.
“As long as the schools implement what they are showing in these skits, I think this is a great program that they should keep going,” he said.
Each school is provided with a disc of all the short films and highlight clips from the award ceremony, said Jeff Sisson, health, safety and risk-management specialist for Champlain Valley Educational Services and host of the award show.
Sisson said the schools can use the movies not only to show current students but as a teaching tool for future generations.