- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 6, 2002

A group of aspiring filmmakers honored their heroes yesterday during the first "Young Filmmakers Program Film Festival" and just like Hollywood directors, writers and editors at the Academy Awards the young artists took home Oscar statuettes for their accomplishments.
Family members, friends and movie buffs packed one of the movie houses at Union Station AMC Theatres in Northeast, popcorn in hand, to watch 10 short documentary films created by 29 students of Payne Elementary School in Southeast.
The event was the culmination of a 10-week summer program sponsored by Capitol Hill Computer Corner in Southeast, and Heroes and Hope, a new nonprofit production company based in Mount Pleasant.
Jamilla Eccles, 10, honored the late Tejana singer Selena in a film she and teammates Rameka Waters and Kendra Shefton presented to the audience. She said the trio selected the performer as their hero because they, too, hope to become singing sensations and they admired Selena's style.
"Selena was an excellent singer and performer. She did not waste the money that she made performing; she used her money and time wisely and helped her family," said Jamilla, a fifth-grader.
The young team incorporated footage from the 1997 movie "Selena" along with footage of Selena during live performances. The group also included some of their own choreography and their versions of Selena's songs so that the film would reflect their personalities as well.
The five-minute films featured a variety of other heroes that included Martin Luther King Jr., fictional superhero Spider-Man, Jennifer Lopez (or J.Lo, as the youngsters call her), Mohammed Ali, Payne Elementary School teacher Mrs. Powell, basketball legend Michael Jordan, Jesus and mothers.
"Normally, children are shy and it's hard for them to express their feelings about the community and the world," said Sam Hampton, the executive director of the Capitol Hill Computer Corner, a community-based technology center that opened last year. "But through film they had no problem; it was easy for them to identify values.
"The quality and messages of the films were outstanding. All 10 films tell a story about the people chosen as heroes, about the community and about the filmmakers," Mr. Hampton said.
Students had the help of mentors many of whom work at the Discovery Channel, and Heroes and Hope who assisted the youngsters in getting their messages across on film.
Mr. Hampton said the students did the research on their subjects, designed the story boards, conducted the interviews, wrote the scripts, shot the film and did the editing. They even did the sound layovers and special effects.
Dwayne Sylver, 10, beamed when asked to identify the hero of his documentary.
"My hero is my mother because she brought me into this world," said Dwayne, a sixth-grader.
Dwayne worked with fellow filmmakers Danny Ray and Leonard Goodwin on the documentary "Mothers," a touching story about what their mothers mean to them. The tear-jerker, accompanied by Michael Jackson's ballad "I'll Be There," concluded the young filmmakers' presentations.
"She's always there to save the day. She watches over me, takes care of me, and I can turn to her for advice and guidance. Plus, she gets me around town to soccer practice, tennis lessons, choir rehearsals and I'm about to take piano lessons," Dwayne said.

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