Interview with Filmmakers Karla Caraballo-Torres & Lorin Eleni Gill (SCHOOL CROSSING)

SCHOOL CROSSING was the winner of BEST FILM at the February 2020 Documentary Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Karla Caraballo-Torres & Lorin Eleni Gill: We were inspired to make this film because my family (Karla) is originally from Venezuela and I had been hearing many stories from family members experiencing the crisis firsthand. We started researching for a story that went beyond the headlines and showed the true human impact of this economic and politic crisis. When we came across this case of children crossing the border to go to school, we thought it was a perfect example of how the crisis was effecting people’s everyday lives in a unique way that hadn’t received much coverage.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this short?

We started doing research in early December 2018 as part of our graduate thesis project and finished the film in early May of 2019, so roughly 6 months.

3. How would you describe your short film in two words!?

Underreported reality.

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

The biggest obstacle was that we had to plan everything ahead of time before traveling to Colombia. We were unable to interview or confirm any interviews ahead of time. We had to land, start looking for characters and shoot everything all within the 10 day period we had on the ground.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

It was really exciting to watch the audience reactions and hear what they liked about the film. We really just wanted to raise awareness about the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela and the struggles these families are facing so it was great to hear that people identified with our characters and learned something by watching our film.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. How did you come up with the idea for this short film?

We had been extensively researching the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela and came across many articles on the struggles many children in Venezuela faced to access education. We started finding reports that many children were even crossing the border into Colombia to access education and decided we wanted to highlight this aspect of the crisis. Once we arrived in Colombia, the border was officially closed and we found that children were still crossing but at these illegal paths so we decided to focus on their stories.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

I have probably seen Bedazzled a thousand times and still find it hilarious every time.

8. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are you feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?

We found it is a great, easy way to find and apply to many great film festivals. Neither of us have much time to do research into festival so it was great to have a centralized platform that allowed us to apply to many film festivals and get our film seen.

9. What song have you listened to the most times in your life?

Pretty much any Shakira song in Spanish, especially a song called Antologia from one of her earliest albums. Eleni-

10. What is next for you? A new film?

Karla is currently working as a video producer at Facebook in San Francisco. Eleni is a reporter for CivilBeat in Hawaii at the frontlines of COVID-19 coverage. We don’t have any concrete plans to make a film as of yet but really hope to be able to work together on a film again in the future!

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