BY ARIEL HERNANDEZ
Students at Springfield Gardens’ PS 15 recently came up with an innovative way of targeting social issues in their community and teaching valuable lessons through art.
For two years, Antonio K’Tori, supervising director and project supervisor principal, and PS 15 students worked on a feature film titled “Police Squad 15, Queens South,” which follows the story of a group of elementary schoolchildren who are fed up with its school being victimized by robbers. Since the children believe that their local precinct is too busy tackling bigger crimes and their principal isn’t working at night, they decide to get together and stake out the school, determined to catch the burglars.
Starring in the film are PS 15 students Nicholas Endeavour as Ray-Ray, Jermaine Dale as Tiny, Taiesha Mitchell as Lanyia, Kaylen Boyd as Zoeey, Brianna Thompson as Moe, Kairah Cardoza as Zalia, Caleb Dunlap as Raheem, Xavier Jones as Jason, Tyler Marshall as Jayzee and Kaila Cardoza as Lailah.
The crew worked so hard on the film that they didn’t want to limit its exposure only to PS 15 students and faculty.
“We thought we could sit here and enjoy the film at P.S. 15 only—or we can invite the community,” K’Tori said.
With the help of state Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), Councilman I. Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans), Assemblywoman Alicia Hyndman (D-Springfield Gardens), U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) and insurance company Healthfirst, their dream became a reality.
The 118-minute film was screened at the Jamaica Multiplex Cinemas from May 15 through May 18 and was attended by more than 1,500 students, approximately 150 city Department of Education staff and parents from more than 14 schools in Queens and Brooklyn.
K’Tori said that the movie only showed for four days as a trial run to determine whether the film has any momentum to move forward. Following the film, viewers are given a survey and teachers are provided with a discussion guide for their students.
Two years ago, when K’Tori was developing ideas for the film, he spoke with Bill Briggs, executive director of the Youth and Tennis Academy, who recommended that K’Tori meet with Sean Vikon, who is well-established in film production.
Although the children wanted to create the film and had the necessary equipment, K’Tori ensured that parents not only granted permission for their children to be filmed, but also that they supported the project 100 percent.
“I just love [the] parents of those young people involved,” K’Tori said.
K’Tori said that the children worked after school hours, on Saturdays and Sundays after church. According to protocols when working with children, the filmmakers had to provide two hours of rest, play time and food for the students. In addition, local restaurants provided free food for all involved.
With cooperation from the community, the children of PS 15 were able to share “Police Squad 15, Queens South” with other schools.
“The children worked very hard and, right now, sitting and watching them enjoying other children that are watching them on the screen and my having the opportunity to speak to children from different districts is amazing,” K’Tori said. “I think it’s a true teaching and learning opportunity for the children. It’s not a movie about fun and games. It deals with real life issues. It shows what bullying looks like. It teaches respect and what respectfulness is about. It shows how children working together can solve issues and put out real results.”
K’Tori said the film digs deep, is not superficial and focuses on issues relevant to everyday life.
“Overall, I think it’s a powerful message,” K’Tori said.
Last week was a trial run for the movie. But depending surveys filled out by viewers, future screenings of “Police Squad 15, Queens South” could be on the horizon.
Reach Ariel Hernandez at (718) 357-7400 x144 or email@example.com