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Make a human rights video with your class

Winner to be shown at Tribeca Film Festival

Speak Truth to Power The Tribeca Film Festival without young New York City talent is like SoHo without a gallery or Little Italy without pasta.

The Speak Truth to Power competition gets students in grades 6-12 into the action by showing them, through their teachers, how to make a three- to six-minute human rights video, with the top-winning video to be shown at the festival on April 29.

Free teacher training took place at a workshop held at UFT headquarters on Oct. 13 at which a teaching artist from the Tribeca Film Institute spoke about activities to engage students, the narrative arc in a short format and production and post-production techniques.

Kerry Kennedy, the president of the Robert F. Kennedy Center, gets applause fromCara MetzKerry Kennedy, the president of the Robert F. Kennedy Center, gets applause from UFT members at the kickoff meeting as she discusses the contest. So even if you are not a film teacher or in a school with a film program, and even if you don’t have a video camera, you can learn how to guide your students in making a video. Think of the excellent footage that reporters have produced with just cellphones.

The project, a collaboration between the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights and the UFT’s state affiliate, NYSUT, in partnership with the film institute, gives teachers a powerful creative tool for getting kids engaged in human rights. It uses the experiences of courageous defenders to educate students about human rights and urge them to take action on any one of a range of issues.

The 2011 inaugural grand prize went to students in upstate New York for their documentary about Wangari Maathai’s Greenbelt Movement in Kenya and the recycling program they launched in her honor. It included still shots of Maathai’s work as well as shots of students discussing the issues and possible solutions.

You can get free teacher-developed lesson plans, called the Defenders Curriculum and based on contemporary defenders of human rights around the world, at

The curriculum, which is aligned with the Common Core State Standards, introduces human rights issues through the stories of some remarkable people working in the field. Students can then choose their focus.

“By studying these defenders, students also become defenders,” said Kerry Kennedy, a human rights activist and president of the Robert F. Kennedy Center, at the Sept. 27 kickoff at UFT headquarters. “When students find that courage within themselves, it becomes a transformative experience.”

The submission deadline for the contest is Feb. 1, 2013. To learn more about the project, prizes and honors, go to

UFT members at the video contest kickoff meeting.Cara MetzUFT members at the video contest kickoff meeting.

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