PHILIPSBURG:--- “What if I told you - that I am not the only guilty one?" asks 11-year-old actor Venndy Isaac in the new film ‘What If I Told You?’
Over the weekend, on Caribbean Youth Day, fifty students, ages 6 to 14, celebrated the premiere of the short film 'What If I Told You?' with their teachers, parents, supporters, and dignitaries. The film, written by teacher Rosan Hartley Gayle and acted by students of the MAC John A. Gumbs Campus (MAC JAG), touches on the importance of the support of parents, teachers, and the wider community in a child's development.
The script was first performed by students, including lead character Venndy, at a Spoken Word Competition at the Men’s Mental Health Awareness event in May. Upon seeing the winning performance, the Department of Youth, Sint Maarten, initiated the film's production in collaboration with UNICEF in the Netherlands. This activity is part of the Child Resilience and Projection Project (CRPP), funded by the Government of the Netherlands, through the Sint Maarten Trust Fund managed by the World Bank.
Peter Sagnia, a well-known film producer, directed and edited the short film. He commented that he “was very impressed with the students”, most of them first-time actors, over the two days of filming. “It was like a Hollywood experience,” shared 11-year-old Tyler Timothy, who plays the teacher in the short film.
“Supporting meaningful youth participation is one of the priorities of the Department of Youth. With activities such as this film, among others to come, we want to continue to raise awareness of youth mental health, encourage more dialogue, compassion, and support for our youth,” explains Faye Arnell, Policy Advisor at the Department of Youth, Government of Sint Maarten.
The premiere event on Saturday for ‘What If I Told You’ started with several surprises for the cast, crew, and invited guests, including film-inspired decorations and posters, a professional photographer and backdrop, a 360-camera experience, and complimentary popcorn and drinks. Once ready, everyone was invited to enter the theatre.
Lenworth Wilson, Youth Participation Specialist for UNICEF the Netherlands, and 11-year-old Abdiel Joseph-Soto, who plays a lawyer in the film, hosted the evening. Several words of welcome were shared, a youth participation poem by Shaneisha Robinson, an introduction to children’s rights, an interview with the main cast members, and the film’s trailer – all lead up to the feature film everyone was waiting for. The viewing ended with loud applause and calls for an encore.
Several government officials and dignitaries attended the premiere, including Minister of VSA, Omar Ottley, Minister of Justice Anna Richardson, and Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs, who commended all the organizations that collaborated, and individuals involved for “pushing youth participation to the forefront.”
“The students, who were first-time actors in the film, did a fantastic job portraying their roles. Today's premiere is to put them in the spotlight and congratulate them, their teachers, and the MAC JAG School on their hard work. We also thank others involved in the production of this film, including the Courthouse, Police Force of Sint Maarten, and Sint Maarten Prison, who provided location, costumes, and a patrol car,” explained the event’s coordinators Lenworth Wilson and Laura Bijnsdorp.
On November 20th, the short film will premiere for the public on the social media pages of the Department of Youth SXM and UNICEF Sint Maarten (@unicefsxm). The trailer is already posted and visible for the public to view!