Kasha just graduated high school a few weeks ago, but she hasn’t been applying to colleges. Instead, she has been applying to film festivals. She filmed, edited, and produced a full feature length film by the time she graduated high school. The film, The Sunrise Storyteller came from her passion to tell stories of people’s strength.
“It is about people. It is about projects. It is about passion.”
How did someone so young decide to help change the world? Kasha and her mother Marla joke, it is in her genes.
Marla got her start in social justice in the 60s during the civil rights movement. She raised her daughter with a sense of compassion, an understanding of the world around her, and the belief that you are never too young to make a difference. At the age of 8, Kasha’s own passion for social justice kicked in.
“My mom took me to see the founder of an organization which was then called the WE Movement. It was started by a kid when he was 12.”
Hearing the founder, Craig Kielburger’s story sparked something in Kasha.
“I heard Craig’s story, and I started to figure out ways that I could do something in my own community. I started asking more questions about issues, trying to educate myself a little bit. My school had a club at the time, so I joined that, and we did volunteer things around our neighborhood.
My second epiphany moment was when I was 14, my mom brought me to a youth peace camp with a feminist organization. Every year they run delegations down to the United Nations to the Commission on the Status of Women, which is a gender equality conference that attracts about 8,000 women and men from every continent and corner of the world.
I met a bunch of people there from places I had never even heard of, and hearing their stories, and about how they were motivated to make the world a better place was inspiring to me, and seeing things online and in the media, wasn’t enough to give me a picture of what the world was really like. I hadn't traveled much. I just wanted to share their stories, and share the ways people overcome adversity and personal adversity of societal and world issues. I wanted to go to where the stories lived.
I pitched this crazy idea to my mom and said, well I have a passion for photography, why don’t I take photos to share their stories.”
Now that Kasha knew what she wanted to accomplish, the question was: how? The original photo idea quickly evolved into a film. With no previous experience, she started to teach herself and took a weekend course in editing. She began a fundraising process. Through Indiegogo campaigns before and while on the road they raised funds to support their journey.
“We needed money to get home. We begged for basically everything. The community really did come out to support this. Corporate sponsors, and individual donors all helped make this possible.”
Another factor that made all of this possible was the leniency of the education system in Canada and the flexibility of Kasha’s school. They were able to take her out of school for a year, periods of time, the question became how to keep up to date on the road, and how she would make up the time gone.
Marla said that most of her teachers, were supportive and knew what Kasha was doing was important, and she did everything in her power to make it possible. Some upon her return weren’t as cooperative.
“I said you know what, do what you have to do. Because this, what she is doing is special. This should count… She actually just got her report card today, and she is an A student. She managed the project with school. She put the effort in. That passion is in the project, and that’s what comes through the film...
She did her thing. She did her thing and it’s resonating with people. Maybe it’ll help wake others up. Maybe it’ll inspire other people to do the same.”
The Sunrise Storyteller was finished in November. Kasha interviewed 30 people about their stories, and narrowed it down to 7 for the film. While it was not her original intention, themes started to emerge while filming; themes such as love, courage, strength, and forgiveness.
The stories have a wide variety of topics. Human trafficking, education, and alternative incomes are all ones that you can see in the film. It is filmed episodically, so the viewer is able to hear each as a complete story.
One of the most impactful stories was that of Kim Phuc, the woman famous for a photograph of her as a young girl running naked after being hit by the Napalm bomb.
“She’s in the film talking about peace. We talked to her because we can’t make progress on any of these issues without peace. Some of the clips in the film with her are heart wrenching, but also very hopeful. She talks about how much she went through after with her self esteem, feeling helpless and depressed. And she admitted at one point, she even contemplated suicide, but I am so thankful that she didn't because she is such an inspiration and such a role model. To take such a negative circumstance- being attacked by planes and bombs- and talk about forgiveness... She constantly has to remind herself to forgive the people that have done her harm. She really taught me a lot.”
The film tells stories of people that are known as well unknown, and of course, tells a little bit about Kasha and Marla’s own story.
“As humans, it is in our nature. We connect with stories.”
As of now, Kasha is not immediately planning on making another full feature length film, but she says you never know what the future might hold. “I have been working on the project as well as school so things have been a bit hectic. I’m taking a year and a half off, then I’ll go to university. In the meantime, I’ll travel, submit to festivals, and continue to grow the project and raise awareness for global issues, stuff like that.”
In addition to the film, she has a new mentorship coming up. She was accepted into Nile Rodgers’ We Are Family Foundation where they will match her with a mentor and work with her for the year. She is one of the class of 2017 of young global leaders.
She is taking her film to the UN Commission on the Status of Women for a conference next this month where it will have its World Premiere. She has just been accepted into her first film festival this April in Florida. The World Domination Summit in Portland will also feature a special showing of her movie this July. I guess you could say that Kasha isn’t like most 18 year olds.
“I just wanted to do it, and get the stories out there, and hopefully through that, people could see that no matter where you come from, no matter your circumstances, you could make the world a better place. And I think that resilience is key. And that’s what we need right now, resilience and a lot of hope.”