Arts & Life
Canstar Community News
Work by a group of recent Sisler High School graduates will soon be streaming on Netflix — and the short film could be an Oscar contender.
"It’s crazy, honestly," says Sisler alum Anjali Sidhu. "We’re all just really appreciative of the fact that we’ve even gotten this opportunity."
Sidhu, 19, is one of five Sisler graduates selected to collaborate on a five-second animation for Cops and Robbers, an adaptation of Timothy Ware-Hill’s spoken word poem of the same name.
The Broadway performer shared the poem online after 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man, was shot and killed in Glynn County, Georgia, by a white man while he was out for a run. In the original post, Ware-Hill is seen jogging through a residential area while reciting lines about innocence lost, racial injustice and police brutality.
American filmmaker Arnon Manor reached out to Ware-Hill about turning the video into an animated film, which was picked up this week by Netflix, along with two other shorts for Oscar consideration.
In June, the co-directors invited more than 30 international animators and production companies to participate. Sisler got involved after Jan Phillip Cramer, of Avengers: Endgame and Avatar fame, put in a good word.
Cramer visited Winnipeg in 2019 to give a talk to students in the school’s Create Program — a free, post-graduation credit program offering a year of additional learning in animation, film, game development and graphic design.
"He absolutely fell in love with our students and our program," says Jamie Leduc, Sisler animation teacher and head of the Create Program. "He vouched that our students were capable of doing this quality of work."
Sidhu and her classmates, John Hildawa, Chantal Philippot, Aaron Raymundo and Matthew Tardaguila, spent a month creating an animation inspired by one line of the poem. The young artists regularly got feedback from Manor and Ware-Hill during video chats.
"It was just a really cool experience getting to work with them on it, because they were really good leaders," Sidhu says. "They never changed our idea, they always just added on to it."
Those virtual conversations were enlightening for everyone involved.
"Timothy brought us a lot of the history of the civil unrest that was happening in America," says Sisler teacher Bernard Alibudbud, who assisted with the project. "When he was sharing his story, or the stories of what was happening, it just connected with the students, who really wanted to… do justice to this (five-second) animation."
The concept the students settled on for their scene was to show a white woman passing through a Black woman on the sidewalk as if she were invisible.
"We wanted to just take an everyday kind of instance, and show that even in the smallest instance (racism) is just not seen," Sidhu says.
The animation was woven together with the other submissions. Hollywood heavyweights such as Pulp Fiction producer Lawrence Bender and actor Jada Pinkett Smith also got involved in the film, which doesn’t have a Netflix release date yet.
The project has been a career highlight for teachers Alibudbud and Leduc.
"There’s so much passion in this industry and it’s great for our students to see because they realize that there’s not (only) the potential of working for a studio in the future," Leduc says. "But they can actually make a difference in society."
Sidhu is working at her first job out of school as a producer’s assistant at a local production company, julijette inc. She’s excited about the future.
"The fact that our voices are being heard, and we’re allowed these opportunities means the world to us," Sidhu said. "We are just at the beginning of our careers and knowing that people have our back, and they believe in us, makes it easier for us to believe in us."
Eva Wasney is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.
Updated on Saturday, October 17, 2020 at 11:41 AM CDT: Correction: In an earlier version of this story it was wrongly stated that 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery was killed by police while out on a run. Arbery was killed by a fellow Georgia resident.
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