Documentaries tell tales of vets, homeless

Naugatuck High School seniors and members of the school’s Film Club Lauren Reilly, left, and Vincenzo Pavone hold the trophy the club won at the Connecticut Student Film Festival for the documentary ‘Parades and Protests.’ –LUKE MARSHALL

Naugatuck High School seniors and members of the school’s Film Club Lauren Reilly, left, and Vincenzo Pavone hold the trophy the club won at the Connecticut Student Film Festival for the documentary ‘Parades and Protests.’ –LUKE MARSHALL

When it comes to veterans or homelessness, students at Naugatuck High School and Woodland Regional High School are ready to tell the story.

The two schools took home top honors at the Connecticut Student Film Festival in May for their respective documentaries.

Naugatuck High School’s Film Club created a documentary called “Parades and Protests” that showed the difference in reception veterans from the Vietnam War and the war in Afghanistan received upon returning home. The students interviewed five veterans, three who served during the Vietnam War and two who served more recently in Afghanistan.

“Just seeing the difference in the two; how the Vietnam veteran was saying how awful it was to come home and, on the other hand, the Afghanistan veteran said ‘it wasn’t bad.’ Just seeing the juxtaposition between the two we said ‘we can really do something with this,’” Naugatuck senior and the film’s interviewer Lauren Reilly said.

The documentary won first place in the festival’s Preserving Our Histories category, which highlights veterans from Connecticut.

Films entered in the Preserving Our History category couldn’t be longer than four minutes.

Naugatuck senior Vincenzo Pavone, who was the film’s editor, said the club had so much good footage from the interviews it was difficult to cut it down to four minutes or less and make it transition smoothly.

“It was extremely hard to take almost an hour, maybe even an hour and a half, worth of clips and bring it down into four minutes that really portrayed our thoughts,” Pavone said.

Students in Woodland’s digital media program, dubbed Hawk Productions, won first place in the festival’s main documentary category for their documentary “Displaced.”

This year the theme for the category was “Empathy by Design,” and “Displaced” focused on homeless shelters and homelessness in America.

Woodland senior and the film’s producer Katya Agamy said Hawk Productions wanted to show the experiences people go through while homeless and that they are still people to fight stigmas about homelessness. Hawk Productions worked with the Spooner House, a Shelton-based homeless shelter and food bank, on the film.

“We were able to learn so much more than the statistics you find floating around. We were able to hear the stories of the people who have had struggles that I cannot even begin to comprehend. Listening to these stories gave us all a new outlook on life and that is what we hoped to do for our viewers,” Agamy said.

Agamy said the Spooner House has seen people from all different backgrounds and situations.

“It was this diversity that really allowed us to get a better idea of what is going on with the homeless epidemic,” Agamy said.

In addition to taking first place in the documentary category, Hawk Productions also won the Parents Choice Award for the third year in a row for its 84 Hour Film Challenge entry “Terminal.”

Reilly said the most exciting part about winning the Preserving Our Histories category was that she was able to tell the veterans who appeared in their film that their stories moved people.

“When I saw it I was just really happy to tell the veterans,” Reilly said. “Even though the Vietnam veterans struggled when they came home they were able to share a little bit of their story, which made a huge impact.”

Agamy attributed the success of “Displaced” to everyone involved with the film.

“When we were announced as the winners of the documentary category I was absolutely ecstatic. I am immensely grateful for the wonderful team I was able to be a part of throughout the making of this film and even more so for the people who were willing to open up to us and tell us about their experiences,” Agamy said.

Agamy said Hawk Productions is looking into the possibility of extending the documentary, even though the festival has ended.

“We have actually been so inspired as to further this project on our own, possibly creating a full length documentary about homelessness in Connecticut,” Agamy said.