Discrimination and prejudice are, sadly, still rife in Britain. Acompetition for young people aims to raise awareness of the problem - and develop film-making skills at the same time, writes John Kelleher.
Most young people have some direct experience of discrimination and, occasionally, of hate, if only as the victims or perpetrators of bullying. But what would they have to say about such discrimination, racism or hate if they were asked to make a film about it?
That is the challenge set by a national competition for young people in education launched by the Spiro Institute. Out of That Darkness will tie in with a five-day forum on the Holocaust being held next July, "Remembering For The Future 2000", in which scholars, teachers, artists, and, possibly for the last time, Holocaust survivors explore the roots and meanings of that hatred and of others - past, present and future.
The film-making competition will bring benefits on two fronts: it will raise awareness of discrimination and give pupils a chance to learn new skills or practise those they have acquired in media studies classes. Competitors can work as individuals or in groups, making films of up to 30 minutes in length. There are cash prizes for the top films, and there will be public screenings.
Nitza Spiro, co-founder of the Spiro Institute and director of the competition, says that, ideally, the young film-makers will engage with contemporary issues rather than take a historically retrospective line. They should address discrimination and persecution in connection with race, religion, gender and nationality in ways that relate directly to their own experience.
She says she hopes the films will be as imaginative as possible in their approach, whether they use drama, animation or documentary, and that they will be innovative rather than a "parade of talking heads".
Although the Holocaust provides the impetus for the main event, the organisers are hoping the films will reveal something of film-makers' own experience. There is more common ground between the two than first appears. The connections between the violence and discriminations of childhood and adult society are complex, but fear and a failure of the imagination lie behind the casual brutality of the schoolyard as much as the murderous behaviour of death squads. Both entail the objectification of those who are "other" or "different", turning them into hated outsiders.
And it's something for which we all have the potential. As Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote in The Gulag Archipelago: "If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?" John Kelleher is a documentary film-maker and writer.Out Of That Darkness is open to film-makers under 19, working in groups or individually. First prize is pound;500, second prize pound;300, and third prize pound;200. Certificates will be issued to schoolscolleges. Entries must be made on video by May 15, 2000. For more information, write to: Out Of That Darkness, young film-makers competition, Remembering For The Future 2000, Spiro Ark, co Middlesex University, The Burroughs, London NW4 4HE. Tel: 0181 201 7172. E-mail: Spiroark@aol.com