Directed by: #PeterMelrose
Edited by: #DarrenKelly
An exploration of multiculturalism through the eyes of school children, Peter Melrose's short #documentary Growing Strong manages to cut deep into the heart of a centuries-long divide using tools made of compassion and love.
The short film takes place in an integrated school in Londonderry, where the students are taught about every type of religion and culture, something fairly refreshing in Northern Ireland where the education system has predominantly focused on being either Catholic or Protestant. Humanism reigns supreme here and the children seem all the more respectful, tolerant, and happier for it.
Documentaries that do not rely on narration are always more challenging in their attempts to convey story and structure to their audience. Growing Strong benefits from some superb editing from Darren Kelly, whose fluid splicing of lessons, sports games, activities and home life, creates the perfect tapestry for these heavy themes to be discussed in a way that never feels burdensome or morbid. At times the piece feels like a promo for the school itself but that is just a bi-product of the substantially moving elements of the movie.
Aesthetically there is a classic feel to the documentary style, only a few moments of slow-motion and sun glare are injected for style. Low-angle shots of the kids talking or distance shots of the teachers teaching make up the majority of sequences. This simplistic approach is perfectly suited to the piece, where the positing of a theory that we should remove segregation as much as possible could be potentially enough for some audiences.
Ultimately what is created in this #shortfilm is the idea that when rigid structures are removed and people are free to engage without the demands of traditions or expectation, a harmony of ideas and thoughts can all exist together where the only common denominator is that we are all in this together as people. Told through the innocence of children who are brilliantly articulate in their attitudes towards the world, this is a lesson for us all and one worth attending.