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Student film “Unmasked” wins Student Filmmaker Tournament

Morgan Keller

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Unmasked, is a student film created to uncover Palo Alto's mental health issues and the ways to overcome them. Photo: Docx Films

“Unmasked” is a student film created to uncover Palo Alto’s mental health issues and the ways to overcome them.  The film premiered on Sept 12.  Photo courtesy of DocX films.

Unmasked, a Palo Alto student-produced film, earned first place for the audience choice category of the Student Filmmaking Awards Tournament, according to an announcement on the organization’s website Sunday night.

Unmasked competed against 31 other colleges and high schools from around the country in December and January. The public supported the film through four rounds of voting, taking the Palo Alto production to the finals round against the University of Nebraska. “Unmasked won by 145 votes, with the final voting to be 1488-1343, according the the organization’s website.

Although the film was created for the  purpose of aiding and supporting Palo Alto’s community, “Unmasked” has been involved in two film tournaments, including the Student Filmmaker Awards Tournament since its release. The film also took home the award for the Best Short Film in November 2015 from the Big Asian Festival in Los Angeles.

“It’s nice to have the film recognized at the competition,” film co-director and Paly senior Christian Leong said.  “But the real sense of accomplishment was getting a film out to impact the Palo Alto community in a positive way.” 

In the future, Leong and his co-director Andrew Baer look forward to continuing supporting students dealing with mental health issues.

“It [the award] doesn’t mean much in terms of the future for the film,” Leong said.  “One benefit from entering into this contest, though, was that with each audience member viewing the film, we were able to spread our messages and awareness of the rising issue of teen suicide.”

Unmasked” was produced by DocX Films and created by 13 students: Palo Alto High School seniors Baer, Leong, Josh Yuen, Joseph Kao, Daniel Cottrell, Leslie Garcia, Natalie Snyder and Stas Ilyasov; Paly junior Zack Gibson; and Gunn High School seniors Yui Sasajima, Lydia Sun, Tanner Kerrins and Rachel Rothberg. 

“The message of the film was to encourage conversation between youth and adults and throughout the community, reduce the stigma surrounding mental health,” Baer said.

Both Leong and Baer are passionate about helping teens realize that there is always hope. 

“We want teens to realize that there is a lot to live for and that if problems do arise, many adults in the community are open to talking to them,” Leong said. 

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