The students at Strawberry Mansion High School waited for the lights to go down. It was early December, just one week after rapper Drake announced he would build a recording studio at the North Philly school, and the students gathered in the North Philly school’s auditorium for a film screening.
“Mourning at Night,” a short film about a teen shooting, written, acted and shot by nearly two dozen Strawberry Mansion students last summer.
Watch the film below.
The students created the film as part of six-week workshop, run by the Village of Arts and Humanities and funded by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and nonprofit EducationWorks.
Since 2012, the U.S. Attorney’s office — specifically prosecutor Robert Reed — has focused on Strawberry Mansion High School, working with principal Linda Wayman to create programs for students. Strawberry Mansion was almost closed along with 24 other Philadelphia schools, but Superintendent William Hite spared it last February.
Reed attended the screening at Strawberry Mansion that day, telling the students that their school was becoming “a center for media,” though it still had its shortcomings.
“We’d like to get you a screen,” he said.
(The film was projected onto an inflatable fixture placed on the auditorium stage.)
The students said the filmmaking workshop was hard — sometimes they stayed late working on the project and were worried they wouldn’t finish in time — but it was worth it.
“I took this as an opportunity to finally put my hands on a camera,” said senior India Squire.
“At first, no one took it seriously,” said senior Tyron Cheesboro, “but then I started to really like it.”
The workshop facilitators, Jon Kaufman and El Sawyer, who put together a celebrated documentary on recidivism for the U.S. Attorneys Office, said they hope to bring the program back to the school.