This week we got to speak with Fly by Light producer (and Josephine Butler Parks Center neighbor) Hawah Kasat, about the film, why it’s significant, and reasons to attend its world premiere this Friday, May 1 at the National Geographic Society.
Fly By Light is a One Common Unity (OCU) youth program and film, directed by MHP alumna Ellie Walton. OCU is a non-profit organization that helps build communities through innovative peace education, arts and media initiatives. MHP was proud to play a small role in the project as an associate producer.
Tell me a little about the story you're telling in Fly by Light.
The film follows a year in the lives of DC high school students as they make their way through One Community Unity’s Fly By Light youth program. It’s a really innovative program that focuses on arts empowerment, nonviolence and social justice and climaxes with an eight day retreat into the mountains. Many of the young people in the film have never traveled outside the walls of the city, so we get to see them really pushed to their extremes and out of their comfort zone as they're swimming in a beautiful river, hiking through the mountains, singing around a bonfire, confronted with snakes and bees and other wild animals. You get to really see them face challenges and grow in nature.
Why did you want to tell this story in a film?
There’s an important conversation that needs to be had in this country about how to recognize and understand that our young people are more than just numbers and grades and percentages. This story is about how to help young people that aren't inspired by traditional education. How to give them some purpose and value in their lives. How to make them feel important and part of community again and not like they’re just fighting alone in the world without any direction.
Who is your audience for this film?
Fly By Light is a gripping narrative about how hard it is to move past trauma from childhood and adolescence and find a way to mend the broken pieces of our lives. We've found that that story is getting traction with many different audiences. We think this movie is important because it's telling the stories of a lot of the disenfranchised and neglected young African American youth - especially males of color - that we've been desensitized to and that we've dehumanized. We need to be telling their stories so we can realize that these are real people who are being brutalized and murdered in the streets. We think that there is space to tap into that movement as well with the movie.
As a non profit organization, however, we are focused on inspiring youth to take leadership and change communities for the better. So in that way the film is targeted for educators, for artists, for anyone interested in social justice, activism, environmental stewardship, people who are interested in healing our communities.
Why should people attend this premiere?
If you're in Washington, D.C. this movie is about you. It's about us. It's about the young people who you see on the buses or in the subway. It's Columbia Heights. It's Anacostia. It's Rock Creek Park. These are children who were born and raised in Washington D.C. They attend DC public schools. These are the young people who we need to be able to see and understand. It's about our ability to have empathy for the gross inequalities that exist here in the nation's capitol where we have such violence and poverty amidst so much wealth and affluence. It's about failing schools when there are more than enough resources but it's not distributed in proper ways. That’s our story.
And in many ways - this movie is an opportunity to become inspired by the powerful resilience of the human spirit, the amazing path of discovery that these young people embark on. It's something that will give any viewer the excitement and motivation to create change in his or her own life.
It seems like the movie is really closely connected to One Common Unity’s mission.
This film is a culmination of 10 prior years of OCU curriculum that was responsible for this pilot program. We filmed it to show what it takes to build a youth program that's innovative and essential. The film was an idea that was generated through board members and through strategic planning of the organization itself.
Fly By Light has its world premiere this Friday, May 1 at the National Geographic Society.