CEC student film fest recognizes students’ passion for filmmaking and advocacy

San+Mateo+County+Supervisor+Dave+Pine+delivers+a+speech+during+the+CEC+film+fest+on+Tuesday%2C+March+22.

Arda Inegol

San Mateo County Supervisor Dave Pine delivers a speech during the CEC film fest on Tuesday, March 22.

Arda Inegol, Staff Reporter

The fifth annual Citizens Environmental Council (CEC) student film festival was hosted in the Burlingame theater on Tuesday, March 22. The festival, organized by the CEC and the Burlingame Environmental Club (BEC), gives elementary, middle and high school students across San Mateo County the opportunity to submit films about a topic related to climate change. 

A panel of seven judges, including Burlingame physics teacher Thomas Bennett and former BEC president Jeffrey Chen, chose the winners. The panel assessed each video’s production quality and checked the information presented for relevance. 

During the film fest, the videos from all participants were projected inside the theater. There were three judging tiers — elementary, middle and high school. The elementary school winner was Shoan Deb from Washington Elementary School, the middle school winner was Siddarth Chibber from Burlingame Intermediate School (BIS) and the high school winner was Lian Wang from San Mateo High School. Chibber also won the overall contest, which highlighted the best video out of all the participants. 

Guest speakers for the film fest included film-maker Kristin Tieche and San Mateo County Supervisor Dave Pine. They congratulated the finalists and winners, and commended them for their hard work in producing the videos and expanding outreach surrounding the climate crisis.

In January, the BEC conducted a film workshop where they answered questions about the film festival and helped students get familiar with video editing platforms such as iMovie. Cate Cattano, Burlingame senior and the current president of the BEC, ran the workshop to help those who wanted to participate but were not comfortable with producing videos.

“So the film workshop is something we do a little over a month before the submissions are due, and we teach them how to use iMovie, how to cite sources and how to do good research,” Cattano said.

Unlike other years, there was no specific theme for this year’s film fest. Students could pick the topic they wanted to focus on as long as it related to climate change, giving them the chance to explore their interests.

“We did sea level rise in years past, but we want to see whatever people are interested in because those videos are usually better if you are actually passionate about something,” Cattano said. “They’re more likely to put in the hours and make a really cool finished product.”

Chibber, the overall winner, made a video focused on overfishing and fish farming, as well as the negative effects that those activities can have on the ocean. He won in the two categories that received the most submissions, and his video was selected as the most informative and well-produced out of all the entries.

“I guess [the win] kind of came as a surprise, but I put a lot of work into it. And I’m happy how it turned out,” Chibber said.

Chibber also has a YouTube channel where he publishes videos on a variety of topics. He combines his passion for filmmaking and advocating for environmental conservation by creating videos relating to sustainable practices.

“Well, I’m really interested in filmmaking. I started during Covid. I started a YouTube channel. And I got really got into that. And then, for the past like two or three years I started reading a lot of books about climate change, and I got really into that,” Chibber said. “So when I heard about [the film festival], I was like, ‘I kind of have to do this because it combines two of my biggest interests.’”

By joining clubs and participating in more film festivals in high school, Chibber intends to continue his advocacy in the fight against climate change. He sees filmmaking as an appropriate career choice for him and wants to explore it more in the future.

“Yeah, [filmmaking] is definitely up there for me,” Chibber said.