'Bringing Cinema 2 Kids' has First Event and is a Success for Both Filmmaker and Students

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When the room of about 50 inner city high school kids broke out in laughter at about 45 seconds into her movie, independent filmmaker Sabina Shamdasani knew this was going to be a special screening. Bringing inspiration, motivation and insight, Shamdasani partnered with After-School All-Stars, Los Angeles as part of her ‘Bringing Cinema 2 Kids’ program. This program started a few weeks ago when Shamdasani decided to embark on a journey to inspire the next generation by hosting screenings of her short film "Dada Ji," a family comedy that has seen a life at film festivals such as LA Shorts Fest, San Diego Children’s Film Festival, and the Damah Spirituality Film Festival. Her first event came on October 21, 2010.

Sabina Shamdasani (center) talking to the After-School All-Stars as part of 'Bringing Cinema 2 Kids'

Whether your goal is to make films or own a business, there will always be challenges. But it doesn't mean you stop dreaming, and it certainly doesn't mean you stop trying to pursue your dreams. I wanted to share my story with the kids

It was a crisp, cool October evening when up and coming filmmaker Sabina Shamdasani entered the courtyard of Gertz-Ressler High School in downtown Los Angeles. Nestled in her arms like a newborn baby, she carried a box containing about 75 DVDs of her short film ‘Dada Ji’ and one small blue and orange foam ball. She was led into a rowdy classroom of students, unsure of what to expect.

This independent filmmaker was on a mission, one that was to bring inspiration to local youth and show them they can follow their dreams as part of her ‘Bringing Cinema 2 Kids' program. With her short film “Dada Ji”, which she co-wrote, produced and directed along with a partnership with After-School All-Stars, Los Angeles (ASAS-LA), over 50 youth, on October 21, learned to block out their doubts and start thinking, ‘what if I can?’.

As Shamdasani rested her box of DVDs on a table, she began introducing herself to the students. After a failed attempt at getting the attention of the room, she took out the ball and declared to the students, if she threw them the ball, they would have to stand up and tell the room what their biggest dreams were.

Immediately, before Shamdasani could even finish her sentence, a hand went up in the back of the room. The student stood up and announced to the class that his name was Anthony and that he was black. His comment was followed by giggles and sneers around the room but soon he proclaimed he wanted to be a football player.

And around the room the ball went. One by one, students stood up and called out a host of different ambitions - athletes, broadcast journalist, pilot, actress, one student even stated he wanted to help his parents be able to retire.

Now that Shamdasani had their attention, it now seemed she might be able to get her message out there. She told the class that she wanted to tell them a secret. With all eyes on her, she explained to the students that everyone who has a dream has a voice in their head that says what if I can’t, but only the people that achieve their dream are able to say, what if I can?

“Whether your goal is to make films or own a business, there will always be challenges. But it doesn’t mean you stop dreaming, and it certainly doesn’t mean you stop trying to pursue your dreams. I wanted to share my story with the kids,” said Shamdasani.

Then, the movie started playing. Laughter and excitement filled the air just barely into the opening scene.

Following the screening, she recalls her own journey of making 'Dada Ji' to the students. She shares that what she thought would be the hardest part, actually turned out to be relatively simple. The idea for "Dada Ji" came after she saw the actor Kumar Pallana in ‘The Terminal,’ a movie directed by Steven Spielberg. She told the class, he was who she wanted to make a movie for and explained she had no idea where to start.

“My goal was to get the students to overcome what may stop them from realizing their dreams; the doubts in their own mind,” said Shamdasani. “Had I listened to the voice in my head that said ‘this guy worked with Spielberg, and you’re just a student’, I would have never tried to make this film.”

The short film "Dada Ji" is the story about an elderly east-Indian man (played by the lovable Kumar Pallana), who moves in with his daughter and her multi-cultural family after his own wife passes away. What ensues is a humorous and heartwarming tale about love, loss, and forgiveness.

The filmmaker especially wanted to share her story with the students of ASAS-LA. The school caters to primarily inner-city youth, located in a part of Los Angeles where violence and crime are prevalent. ASAS-LA provides comprehensive after school programs that are fun for kids and also keep them safe and help them achieve success in school and life who's mission is to help kids succeed in school and in life.

“The kids here need support from the community. They need people around them encouraging them and supporting them, telling them they can do anything they wish to do,” said Shamdasani.

As the screening ended and the credits rolled, Anthony put his hands in the air and started snapping his fingers, followed by the rest of the class. One of the coordinators let Shamdasani know this meant they were “giving her props”. While the students asked questions about the movie-making process, the DVDs went around the room, one for each child.

“I want each of you to get a copy of the movie - take it home with you - it’s the physical proof that a goal comes with challenges, but it is achievable. You’re holding the evidence in your hand.” said Shamdasani as she ended her presentation.

About Sabina Shamdasani:

Sabina Shamdasani grew up in small community, where a career in the film industry was anything but realistic, even in her own mind. After her film ‘Dada Ji’ had a successful run at the festival circuit, she was inspired to do more with the movie. Setting out on a journey to inspire, Sabina launched a program called ‘Bringing Cinema 2 Kids’ and will be hosting her first event with Los Angeles based After-School All-Stars. Shamdasani hopes by sharing her small town tale and her challenges in getting her film made, she can encourage kids to pursue their dreams no matter the obstacles.

About ASAS-LA:

Founded by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2002, After-School All-Stars, Los Angeles (ASAS-LA) is a leading after-school program provider whose programs educate, enlighten and inspire thousands of middle and high school students each day. Activities are centered around health, fitness and nutrition; the visual and performing arts; and youth leadership and community service learning.

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