Our Approach

Marginalized youth face a daunting set of economic and social obstacles such as flawed or interrupted education, language barriers, a lack of skills for employment, exclusionary social environments, and no viable platform to advocate for their own cause.

These factors put our learners at a serious disadvantage in terms of their individual and collective development. Reel Lives supports youth in confronting and overcoming these obstacles.

Founded in 2010 in New York City, Reel Lives has trained over 120 marginalized youth as filmmakers and produced nearly 200 films. A key element to our method lies in the atmosphere of trust and confidence created within the program. Prior to working with the youth, all trainers experience first hand power of the program by creating their own self-exploratory films. By discussing their personal lives, trauma and development with students, trainers break down the walls that exist in traditional teacher and student roles, and encourage trust, honesty and investment from each participant. Our young filmmakers collectively grapple with their own lives in a supportive and nurturing community, and learn from one another’s experiences. It is not an overstatement to say that our educational programming is uniquely transformative, and graduates see the world, and their place in it, in a very different light.

In 2012 we piloted our first international project in Cape Town, South Africa, working with six youth from the townships of Makhaza and Nyanga in partnership with IkamvaYouth, a local educational program. We returned in 2013 training a set of young adults, and ran workshops around our media with 200 secondary-school students through an intensive two-week program. Our international programming created cross-cultural dialogue through our Peer-Mentorship Initiative, in which our South African students were paired up with graduates of our New York City program for weekly Skype mentoring sessions.

“Reel Lives' work is transformational on multiple levels. Our learners have developed impressive skills, experience and self-confidence, and the positive shifts in their relationships with peers and family members are phenomenal. Most transformational of all, however, is the impact these films have on the people who see them.” – Joy Olivier, Director, IkamvaYouth

 

In 2014, Reel Lives relocated our home office to Cape Town in partnership with The University of Cape Town (UCT).  This partnership has created the opportunity for us to give our students college credits for completing out training, and provide a certain number of bursaries for exceptional graduates to pursue a degree in Media Studies at UCT.

 

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