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Art inspired filmmaking to inspire creativity and drive change

In a case of art imitating life and vice versa, a sculpture named Absorbed by Light has served as the catalyst for the production of a new work of art in a different medium. Inspired by the sculpture and with technical support from StarTime Studios, a group of young Sydney filmmakers has produced a short film by the same name for the 9th annual REELise Film Festival, which centres around the digital experience for today’s youth.

Absorbed by Light, from sculpture to the big screen

Absorbed by Light the sculpture was created for the 2022 Amsterdam Light Festival and is now visiting Sydney as part of Chatswood Culture Bites, Willoughby City Council’s innovative program of music, theatre, comedy, and culture. In it, three figures sit next to each other on a bench, displaying the typical characteristics of smart-phone users: heads bent, fingers typing and swiping, faces lit up by their phone screens. While their bodies are physically present, their minds are elsewhere. 

Designed by British artist Gali May Lucas and executed by Berlin-based sculptor Karoline Hinz, the artwork invites viewers to take a seat between the figures to experience how our obsession with technology affects others. 

The digital age, challenging everyone

Absorbed by Light the movie examines the often unhealthy obsession with technology in our youth and encourages everyone to reflect on their own habits. Viewers are forced to ponder: How much of life am I missing out on by being glued to my mobile device? 

For parents, allowing kids to start engaging in digital and social media often intersects with one of their children’s greatest fears, not fitting in, alongside genuine concerns about how their children’s exposure to social media will impact on their health.

Absorbed by Light poignantly captures this from both perspectives. 

Meet the 13yr old filmmakers

The film’s producer and co-director, 13yr old Max Moss, and his friends Gabby, Louis and Sam were confronted by the figures in the sculpture as they passed by it on their way to the cinema one day.

“I just got my first phone,” explains Max, describing his vision for the film. “It’s an iPhone, so now I’m learning all the cool features it has. Going out with my new friends, making this film, and finding time to do homework, it’s pretty hectic.

“Because I’ve entered this Film Festival before, I’ve already experienced what it’s like to create a movie from scratch,” he adds, “so this year I wanted my new high school friends to experience how great it is to have an opportunity like this.”

“There are very few words in the film, so no-one really talks much. It mostly relies on facial expressions. We thought this would express the anti-socialism in the physical world because they’re all addicted in the virtual world.”

Parents, look up!

Their film has had a big impact on their friends and wider social networks, their immediate and extended families, the school community, and more. According to one young viewer, “It’s one of the most terrifying films I have seen – so subtle, so controlling and dead, and defining of character and future.”

And parents, think you can hide your own attachment to your phone? After one Kindy class viewed the film, the teacher asked her young students “How many of you have parents who sit on their phones a lot?” and every single child put their hand up. ”My mum’s always on her phone!” exclaimed one.

With student wellbeing a big focus, especially following the collective trauma of COVID and nationwide lockdowns, it’s refreshing to have young people so actively involved in bringing awareness to some of the contributing factors that can lead to poor mental wellbeing and even more prolonged social isolation.

REELise and StarTime creating opportunities for Aussie kids

REELise is a registered charity formed in 2013 with the goal of empowering Australia’s youth to address the mental health impacts of cyberbullying and digital life, instead using their digital presence for good. The focus is on equipping young people to harness the potential of their digital devices and social media platforms to lead positive change online. 

REELise’s vision is simple: create a world where young people feel safe to share their stories, feel respected, and are heard.

The REELise Film Festival is designed to give young people between 10 and 18 years an opportunity to share their stories about navigating digital life to entertain, educate and inspire positive change online.  

StarTime’s goal is to inspire young people to be creators, rather than simply passive consumers, of technology. We believe that empowering children with the skills to create meaningful video content has far greater impact than on just our students; it flows on to their peer groups, social networks, families, and the broarder community.

StarTime has been a sponsor of the REELise Film Festival for 5 years. We enjoy giving children and young people their moment to shine and build confidence, to help them find their voice and teach them storytelling skills, so they can produce meaningful video content that will not only engage an audience but leave a lasting impact.  

StarTime and REELise provide cyber safety filmmaking incursions that teach children about cyber safety within a fun, interactive framework of storyboarding and filmmaking.

Vote for Absorbed by Light

Watch Absorbed by Light here. How does it make you feel? To show your support and help spread this important message, share the film with family and friends and cast your vote for Absorbed by Light. SMS ‘93216’ to 0407 288 400 before 3pm, 5th November 2022.

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