While many kids in the Peñalolén neighborhood of Santiago can’t afford frequent trips to the movie theater, Chilean filmmaker Alicia Vega is still ensuring that they get a chance to experience the magic of making movies.
Vega, now 83-years-old, has led children’s film workshops for the past 27 years. In her four-month classes, kids study early film history, explore shots and angles behind real cameras, and animate their own storylines using a Zoetrope – a low tech tool that gives a row of static images the illusion of movement when spun. They also construct a mock cinema box office complete with play money to pay for screenings.
“My intention was never for them to become filmmakers, but for them to become better human beings, to discover themselves,” Vega told the Associated Press.
“Movies help children escape poverty because it lifts their self-esteem. They learn values, it expands their culture. It’s universal: Kids are kids anywhere and they learn a lot through images.”
Leonardo Veliz, 38, attended Vega’s workshop in 1987 at age 13. He now works as an electrical technician, and says the cinema workshops had a major impact on him in his youth.
“The classes awakened my curiosity,” Veliz told The Associated Press. “We learned that images are not really what they seem at first, and this has helped me at work. I’ll be repairing computers for hours, and I also have to find a way to see things in a different way.”
Vega has recently written a book, “Film Workshop for Children”, about her life of workshop teaching. She hopes to share her unique mission with the world.
“I keep on doing it because I see in children’s faces that every year, with every experience, they achieve goals that they never dreamed of,” Vega said. “Parents tell us that they focus and do better at school, and more importantly, they’re happier.”