Last month, we hosted filmmaker Yasmin Mistry and two of the participants in her films, Charell Star and Kim Flodin, for an interactive screening of three short films that are the first in a larger series being produced by Mistry, the Director of Foster Care Film & Community Engagement Project.
The films are based on interviews that Mistry conducted with individuals – current and former foster youth, foster parents – connected with the foster care system. She approaches her storytelling about foster care from her own experiences as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), and through her filmmaking, Mistry continues to advocate on behalf of the children and families bound up in this system.
We first came to know Yasmin through an earlier endeavor: the Youth, Media, and Educational Justice, a yearlong seminar and broader project aimed at inquiring into and supporting the lives of system-involved youth through collaborative mentoring, inquiry, and media making. Yasmin’s unique blend of storytelling brings together animation, personal narrative, and memory in order to communicate aspects of the foster care experience that are either overlooked or poorly represented in broader policy, research, and public discourses.
At last month’s screening, following each of the short films, attendees were invited to reflect on the piece they had just viewed and jot down observations and questions before moving on to the next one. Following all three films, Yasmin, Kim, and Charell were joined by Masclab Director, Lalitha Vasudevan, for a moderated discussion about many of the themes that were brought forth by the films: seeking a sense of belonging, creating a feeling of home, establishing trust, and family.
While the films focus on the experiences of former foster youth and their kinship and caregiver networks, they also hold broader messages for audiences interested in nuanced portraits of adolescents and of the relationship between institutions and the youth in their charge. These films are vital viewing for educators, counselors, social workers, legislators, judges, and others who encounter and make decisions about the lives of system-involved youth.