Reagan Film Fest

A group of student filmmakers hopes to reshape Ausinites' vision of the Eastside school

The hall outside Trent Sharp's room at Reagan High is lined with poster boards advertising the films under production inside: Hood Fight, Homelessness, East Side Life, and Haunted, starring Austin City Council Member Raul Alvarez. "What you're about to see is really scary," the poster warns in red Sharpie. These are some of the films that will debut at Raider Film Fest 2005, Monday, Nov. 28, 7-9pm at the Reagan High theatre.

Inside the room, Sharp gave instructions to the young filmmakers, who had a week left to finish their cuts. He warned that the stakes were high for a school that's too often portrayed as little more than a war zone. "A group of Austinites who may have an opinion about you have a chance to come out and see it's not always what it seems," he said. "You need to be thinking, 'Is this looking like a student film, or is it looking like a polished, professional piece of art that gets my message out?'"

In pairs and trios, the students moved toward their Macintoshes. Ninth grader Tazea Dukes stared intently at a computer running a rapid-cut assembly of interview footage. She said the message she wants to get out is complex – so complex she's not even sure she'll be done in time for the festival. "It's about growing up in poverty and struggle on the Eastside," she said. "I realized I was showing only the negative. I want to show the positive, too."

Being poor is "good, even though it's bad," she explained, because it teaches you about real life. That is, if you only know a rich, sheltered environment, you'll never learn the skills you'll need to survive if one day you end up poor or on the streets. As the faces of her friends and neighbors flashed by on the screen, she spoke with quiet confidence about the lessons she had learned in her 14 years, and that she hopes to ultimately capture in her finished film. "I don't want to scare you," she said. "I want to educate you."

Around her, other students grappled with their own projects on a wide range of subjects: car restoration, hip-hop, tattoos, and the Reagan-LBJ homecoming game. The two-hour program will feature about two dozen films; it's free but donations are requested to help students buy tapes and to fix the eight cameras that are currently broken. Above all, the students hope to show Austin that their school deserves more than just negative headlines. "This is a good school," said Dukes. "Even though people don't believe it."

*Oops! The following correction ran in the December 2, 2005 issue: Last week's article on the Reagan High School Film Festival claimed that the film Haunted starred Austin City Council Member Raul Alvarez. It actually stars Reagan student Roel Alvarez, who is not a council member.

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Raider Film Fest 2005, Tazea Dukes, Trent Sharp

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